By Francisco Nicolás Bravo, Member of the CNTE (National Coordination of Education Workers) in Mexico
Peña Nieto’s Anti-Labor Structural Reforms
Peña Nieto’s government has imposed a series of the so-called “structural reforms”, like a labor reform, an electoral reform, a tax reform and has advanced the privatization of the energy, electricity and education sector. The goal of those reforms is to enrich even further the corporations and increase the inequalities between the owner of money and the working class.
Several studies show that 80% does not match the living standard and 20$ of the population lives in extreme poverty, with $1/day. Two radically opposed Mexico’s co-exist and this is the true source of the ongoing and recurrent social conflicts in the country.
Peña Nieto is just carrying forward the neoliberal project of his predecessor. In 2009 Calderon government eliminated the public electricity company “Luz y Fuerza del Centro” firing more than 40,000 electricians promising instead that the new optic fiber cable will be a deal. Now Peña Nieto is taking on the last step of the dismantling of the national oil public company: PEMEX.
In the last decades, the Mexican government has turned 96 million hectares of national land to national and foreign companies for their exploitation. This has furthered the destruction of ecosystems. The last example was the destruction of the 57 hectares of mangrove in Tajamar (Cancún) so real estate speculators can build infrastructure for tourism. 35% of the mangrove of the country has succumbed to real estate speculation.
On the labor front, Peña Nieto has legalized Outsourcing in 201, the trial hiring’s, the hiring by the hour, lowered wages, increased flexibilization, etc. This is a real butchery of labor rights. The average wage is of 70 pesos for an 8/h day (US$4), while even the most conservative studies argue that to have an average life a worker should earn three times more.
This context of social attacks, couple with the daily violence of organized crime and the Mexican State (Ayotzinapa) are the context where the government imposed in 2012 an “Education Reform” which has met an extraordinary resistance of the teachers organized around the CNTE (National Coordination of Education Workers).
The Neoliberal “Education Reform”
The Education Reform started with a sudden modification of articles 3 and 73 of the Mexican Constitution by the Congress on December 2012, just right after Peña Nieto came to power. Behind the reform lies a coalition of corporate interests called “Mexico Primero” (Mexico First), which is linked to Televisa, a major Mexican TV and network corporation. This corporate lobby had been leading a campaign against public education, blaming teachers and unions of the crisis of public education.
The main aspects of the constitutional reform include a) the introduction of “quality education” without a clear definition of the term, linked to the corporate vocabulary of “efficiency” and “competence”, b) the imposition of a mandatory system of credentials and evaluation of teachers, c) the creation of the National Institute of the Evaluation of Education, d)the creation of the Professional Teaching Service, e) the opening to “autonomous management “ of schools, which allows parents to finance and gain control over the schools.
Those changes mean a radical degradation of the working conditions of teachers, in particular through the continuing appointment exams, which were eliminated by previous struggles of the union which won straight security of all appointment. It means the imposition of job insecurity and precarity. But the second damaging aspect is that the reform opens the door of the privatization of public education.
The CNTE and teachers have never been opposed to accomplish a meaning reform of the education system, as they recognized the real limitations and corruption of the existing one, led by alliance of the government and the bureaucratized labor leaderships. Nor they bluntly reject any form of evaluation if it used to improve education and not to fire teachers – as it is now. The reality is that there are two models or visions for education: that of Peña Nieto and the corporate Mexico, and that defended by the teacher’s education specialist, the students and the working communities. This is the reason of the conflict.
The National Coordination of Teachers (CNTE) Fights Back
The CNTE has led a continuous struggle against this reform from 2012 on, In particular it organized an unlimited strike on February of 2013 which was met by an authoritarian response from the government which imposed the reform by decree. Then there began a huge way of repression against teachers, including death and new waves of strikes.
The struggle picked up last year, in 2015, when the government began implementing the evaluation of teachers when new labor actions were taken and the teachers confronted a military like response. Today, the struggle is still open in the air, as neither side has been defeated.
If you want to learn more about the details of the 2013-2015 CNTE struggles, please purchase our little pamphlet in Spanish “La Reforma Educativa en Mexico.”