Teachers start new strike

24 June 2018

Peru’s teachers initiated a new campaign of strikes last week, aimed to increase teachers’ pay and at forcing the government to retreat on its plans to reform the profession. In response, the government made a number of announcements designed to dissuade teachers from supporting the strike, including docking wages and threats of dismissal. As is usual, the Labour Ministry has declared the strike illegal.

The strike is the initiative of the more radical wing of the teachers’ union, led by Pedro Castillo. The strike is opposed by the more orthodox wing of SUTEP controlled by Patria Roja. The two sectors indeed confront one another. Estimates of support for strike action varied widely last week between 5% (Ministry of Education) and 75% (Castillo).

The strike follows on from the lengthy one last year.

SUTEP is probably Peru’s most powerful union federation representing an estimated 400,000 teachers across the country. It is now divided into three factions. While Patria Roja controls the union’s executive, Castillo’s faction has sought to challenge the leadership. It has now adopted the name Federación Nacional de Sindicatos Unificados de Trabajadores en la Educación del Perú (Fenasutep). A third faction is led by the cusqueño Ernesto Mesa, with support of local teachers’ unions in Piura, Cuzco, Arequipa and parts of Lima.

The Fenasutep denounces what it sees as the manipulation of SUTEP by a corrupt clique linked to Patria Roja. The union’s national executive, for its part, accuses Castillo’s faction of links to groups that support Sendero Luminoso. 

The announcement of the new strike coincides with the publication of a joint report by the Instituto de Estudios Peruanos (IEP) and the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. This makes recommendations for policies in the education sector. It urges better planning in equating the distribution of teachers to educational needs across the country; an improvement in teachers’ wages; better provision for teaching support in schools; more attractive incentives for young people to enter the teaching profession; and improved liaison over the controversial subject of teacher evaluations.

The Inter-American Dialogue is engaged in a number of studies designed to improve civil society support for better teaching throughout Latin America. See the report.

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