By RICARDO CASTILLO
Mexican education workers nationwide commemorated Teachers’ Day (Día del Maestros) in many different manners on Wednesday, May15, not excluding expressing their dissatisfaction with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s (AMLO) new education reform, which was fully approved by Congress during the day. AMLO said he’d sign the law immediately so it can be published on Thursday, May 16, in the Official Gazette and take affect immediately.
Teachers’ Day activities began early at the National Palace, where AMLO hosted a delivery of awards to 34 teachers from all over the nation who have been in public school service for over 40 years.
The surprise at the National Palace was that, this time, AMLO did not invite the leaders of the 1.2-million education workers unions. Neither the million-member-strong National Education Workers Union (SNTE) nor the forever-belligerent National Coordinator of Education Workers (CNTE), with circa 200,000 in the states of Michoacán, Guerrero, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Mexico City, had representatives at the awards.
AMLO, however, announced that he had slated separately with the leadership of the two unions to meet with him on Monday, May 20, at the central government-run Public Education Secretariat (SEP).
“I have respect for the discrepancy of the CNTE unionists,” AMLO said, noting that his first meeting with on Monday would be with the minority CNTE and later he would meet with SNTE leaders.
Later in the day, the SNTE issued a press release informing that after two months of negotiations with SEP Secretary Esteban Moctezuma, the group had managed to get a hefty 6.25 percent wage increase and 5.25 percent more in benefits. Non-teaching personnel at all levels of schooling received a 6.15 percent wage hike. All increases are retroactive to January, when the SEP-SNTE negotiations began.
“These increases are directly linked with the growth of the nation (GDP) and inflation,” said SNTE leader Alfonso Cepeda Salas. Cepeda Salas also said that the negotiated hikes were unanimously approved by the head of the 245-member National Council.
During the awards ceremony, AMLO said that the congressional approval of his new law brings to an end “the ill-fated Education Reform” of former President Enrique Peña Nieto – which provoked thousands of protest marches during the past administration – “as these reforms were known as structural reforms and were imposed from abroad, as were the fiscal, labor and energy reforms.” AMLO did not mention the “abroad” nation or nations “imposing” the structural reforms.
But he did mention that in the case at education, “it was clear that outsiders sought the privatization of education and they had silently advanced on that goal. The purpose was to have that only those who could afford it go to school.”
He added that the Peña Nieto education reform offended teachers all over the nation.
“We will always show our respect for the teachers of Mexico and will never offend them, as it was done, by launching a discrediting campaign against them,” he said.
The president said that, over the past years, a campaign was launched by Peña Nieto “to blame teachers for the education deteriorations, when we know that there are many circumstances and conditions for (the poor education) of our people. Sady, there is a lot of poverty in the nation.”
AMLO said he’s visited every municipality in the nation and “seen with my own eyes the conditions in the furthest away municipalities, where teachers are meeting their responsibilities. That’s why I never agreed with the discredit campaign against them.”
On Mexico City’s streets, several hundred CNTE members who were protesting were told of the planned Monday meeting and asked for their response. CNTE Section 22 (Mexico City) leader Enrique Enriquez Ibarra said that “this afternoon we’ll analyze the invitation during our national representational assembly, but most likely we will be there.”
During the CNTE march, unionists demanded “a true abrogation of the (Peña Nieto) education reform, as we have always demanded.”
The march – traditional on Teachers Day – also marked the first 72-hour work stoppage in several states carried out by ´the CNTE as part of the action to cancel the education reform, as well as to show their rejection of what they consider a “labor-exception regime” in the new law. Leader Enriquez did not specify what that meant.