Mon | Dec 11, 2023

Pay pushes Venezuelan teachers to protest, consider quitting

Published:Monday | August 15, 2022 | 5:24 PM
A teacher holds a sign that reads in Spanish: "Living wage now!" during a pro-government protest by public workers demanding the government pay their full benefits and respect collective bargaining agreements in Caracas, Venezuela, Wednesday, August 10, 2022. (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix, File)

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Public school teachers across Venezuela had planned to use their annual vacation bonus to buy uniforms for their children, waterproof leaky roofs, get new prescription glasses or fix the pair barely held together by adhesive tape.

Some expected to get $100, while others calculated a little more or less depending on their years of service and advanced degrees, though only a small number thought they would get around $200.

The government, however, paid them only a tiny fraction of that.

So, a few days into their long break, teachers have been marching by the thousands around the country, threatening to strike when school resumes or possibly even to abandon their profession.

“Right now, I don't even have a pencil for my children to start classes in September,” said Florena Delgado, who teaches first and fifth grades at two schools in one of the lowest-income neighbourhoods of the capital, Caracas.

She also makes cake toppers, creates balloon decorations and sells clothes to supplement her government pay. Unless something changes, “I don't plan to join classes, and well, let it be what God wants,” she says.

In response to the unrest, the government announced Friday through a lawmaker that it will pay the bonus in full this week. But Venezuela's teachers are long accustomed to seeing televised economic promises that aren't kept, so they are waiting until they get their money before changing course.

Elementary and high school educators in the crisis-wrecked country on average earn about $50 a month, ranking among the lowest paid in Latin America. The government pays them a vacation bonus in a single payment at the end of every school year in July.

The National Budget Office based this year's bonus on the $1.52 monthly minimum wage of 2021 instead of the $30 rate that took effect in April. The government also paid teachers only 25% of the unexpectedly low bonus and did not set a date to disburse the rest.

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