Public school teachers in Colombia went on a nationwide strike Tuesday to protest what they describe as the government's failure to keep its promises to their union.
The strike was called by the Fecode teachers union, whose president, Luis Grubert, told reporters that some 330,000 educators are taking part in the job action.
In a letter sent Monday to the Senate president, Juan Fernando Cristo, Fecode said that the Education and Finance Ministries have maintained an attitude of "intransigence and arrogance," and at the same time have not complied with accords reached in May.
Among the seven complaints Fecode made to the government were demands for better health benefits, the payment of salary arrears dating back to 2002, and an end to deteriorating working conditions.
They also protest "against the privatization of education."
Education Minister Maria Fernanda Campo called the strike an "absolutely unjustified" measure, and said the government will definitely fulfill its commitments to the teachers.
The minister said that since Sept. 2 the government has maintained "an open dialogue, frank and respectful with Fecode," in which progress was made on several of the teachers' requests.
One subject where differences persist, Campa said, is Fecode's petition to eliminate the evaluation of teachers, something that for the government is "non-negotiable." EFE