Thursday, December 7, 2023

University workers go on strike but AMLO insists there’s no more cash

Employees of at least 30 public universities stopped work on Wednesday to demand additional funding from the federal government. But President López Obrador is adamant that no further money will be provided.

Among the workers who confirmed their participation in the strike were professors and administrative staff at the autonomous universities of Nayarit, Zacatecas, Morelos, Tabasco, Oaxaca, Michoacán, México state, Sinaloa and Chiapas, said Enrique Levet Gorzope, secretary general of the National Confederation of University Workers.

Most of the universities say they have insufficient funds to pay their employees’ salaries and/or benefits.

The Autonomous University of Nayarit has had a 1.8-billion-peso (US $92-million) budget deficit since 2017, the newspaper Milenio reported.

If the government doesn’t provide additional support to cover the wages of 4,700 teaching and administrative staff members, the workers have threatened to continue their work stoppage indefinitely, leaving 25,000 students without classes.

The autonomous universities of Zacatecas and Morelos say they lack funds to pay the salaries of 3,000 and 6,000 employees, respectively.

José Carlos Aceves, a union leader at the Sinaloa Autonomous University, said there is no money to pay end-of-year bonuses to staff.

About 167,000 students at the university, which has campuses in Culiacán, Mazatlán, Los Mochis and Guamúchil, will be affected by today’s strike.

The rector of the Guerrero Autonomous University, Javier Saldaña Almazán, said he currently has enough funds to cover salaries but two unions that represent more than 5,000 workers at the university decided to join the job action anyway.

University employees plan to converge on the lower house of Congress in Mexico City on Friday to stage a protest aimed at placing pressure on lawmakers to increase tertiary education funding.

However, López Obrador told reporters at his regular news conference on Wednesday that his government won’t give in to “blackmail” even if the whole country is shut down by strikes.

University funding can’t be increased above the inflation rate, the president said, because the government has a policy of austerity that must be respected.

“. . . There has to be order in budget management . . . We have to behave responsibly because if money is given away willy-nilly, we’d have to go into deficit, [raise] taxes, borrow money, increase the debt like it was before, and we’re not doing that now,” López Obrador said.

The president claimed that a lot of public universities have mismanaged their budgets and distributed funding irresponsibly.

Source: Milenio (sp) 

CORRECTION: The previous version of the story mistakenly identified the school in the photo as the University of Guadalajara.

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