Guatemalan Teachers Block Highways to Demand Pay Hike

GUATEMALA CITY – Thousands of Guatemalan public-school teachers blocked key highways on Monday in a protest aimed at securing a 16 percent pay increase from President Alvaro Colom’s government.

Teachers resorted to roadblocks because the government has not complied with the collective-bargaining agreement signed last year, the head of the ANM union, Joviel Acevedo, told reporters.

He said that because authorities did not deliver the 8 percent increase promised in 2009, teachers are now demanding an across-the-board raise of 16 percent.

Protesting teachers are blocking access routes around Guatemala City as well as the main highways linking the country to neighbors Honduras, El Salvador and Mexico, according to Acevedo, who led a contingent of ANM members in an occupation of the Education Ministry.

Police official Amilcar Montejo said the protests had generated traffic chaos in and around the capital.

Acevedo said that if the government does not meet the union’s pay demand, thousands of teachers from the Guatemalan interior would stage protests in the capital on Wednesday.

The education minister, Bienvenido Argueta, said the best the government can do this year is an 8 percent pay hike, while Deputy Minister Francisco Cabrera appealed to teachers to abandon the protests and resume dialogue with authorities.

ANM represents more than 80,000 teachers, but the Education Ministry says that not all union members support Acevedo’s confrontational stance. EFE

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