The teachers' strike ends

3 September 2017

As we went to press on 2 September, it was announced that a majority of the regional organisations belonging to SUTEP had decided to call off their strike which had run for nearly three months. It was clear that this was not because of any agreement reached with the Ministry of Education or the minister, Marilú Martens.

Over the previous week, the government had turned its back on the striking teachers, refusing point-blank to enter into negotiations with them over the issue of teacher evaluations. Education Minister Marilú Martens said there would be no further meetings with the leadership until the teachers return to work. She had also threatened to push ahead with plans to recruit large numbers of replacement to teachers to stand in for those who continue the strike.

The government argued that regular evaluation of teachers is a key plank in its attempts to raise teaching standards in Peruvian schools. The teachers’ union argues that it is simply a mechanism to weed out radical teachers and that it not only represents a major threat to job stability in the profession but to the future of the union itself. It was unclear whether the union leadership, which declared that lifting the strike was a “temporary” measure, had surrendered on this point.

Martens faces her own evaluation in Congress this week. On 9 September she will be grilled over her handling of the strike, now well into its third month. She may well face a parliamentary censure, in which case she will lose her job. The pro-Fujimori majority in Fuerza Popular has made no secret of its sympathies for the cause of the striking teachers, seeing this as a way to attack the government. Other members of Congress, too, have been highly critical of Martens’ performance as minister, as have been some regional authorities.

The ministry was claiming at the end of last week that more than half of the teaching profession had returned to work. But those teachers who have been camping out on the streets of Lima in recent weeks showed few signs of heeding the government’s threats, proclaiming their intention to stand by their demands.

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