Posteado por: tucidides | 24 mayo 2010

Students, unions promise increased militancy in UPR strike

May 24, 2010
The National Negotiating Committee for Students, University of Puerto Rico Board of Trustees President Ygrí Rivera, and UPR President José Ramón finished five hours of negotiations Sunday with no apparent progress toward ending the student strike.
While there is no end in sight to the conflict, students and unions promised Sunday that they would be increasing their militancy. Ian Camilo, president of the Socialist Youth Union, said the striking UPR students plan to take their fight “to the spaces where the rich and powerful do not expect us to go,” as was the case this Saturday when 200 students protested inside Plaza las Américas. Meanwhile, Eric Sevilla, a member of the General Workers’ Union and Labor Coalition, said unions no longer would be turning the other cheek to police aggression and would be responding in kind the next time police attack their members.
At the end of negotiations Sunday, Rivera said the paralyzation of the UPR is due to a “strike based on a lie,” adding students want to establish a co-government of the academic institution, while National Negotiating Committee member Arturo Ríos Escribano pointed to the intransigence of the UPR administration.
After the meeting, Board of Trustees President Rivera said the students no longer want to discuss Certification 98 that would eliminate tuition waivers. She said now students propose establishing a permanent structure in which they would have decision making power and even veto power over the decisions of the university’s administration, adding these demands are not acceptable.
National Negotiating Committee member José García rebutted Rivera, saying that until now the students have not submitted any specific proposal to submit a permanent structure, but at the right time they want to discuss the matter.
“In terms of the budget, we made a call, specifically to the president [De la Torre] that the Fiscal Efficiency Committee be established in a permanent manner, which he opposed,” García said.
The administration has declined to open its finances to student review and has failed to promise there will not be tuition hikes, while insisting on investigating and punishing supposed acts of vandalism at some of the university’s campuses, Ríos Escribano said.
“On all points we have ceded a little, but they have said ‘no’ to everything. They want all their proposals to be final,” Ríos Escribano said. “We are not going to propose a co-government. What we want is that we be permitted to be more involved in decision making.”
The first point of negotiations Sunday was the students’ call for no sanctions to be taken against strikers, and no agreement was reached on this issue, Ríos Escribano said. The next point negotiated was the UPR’s budget.
Regarding the budget, “we presented proposals and counter proposals and did not reach any accord,” Ríos Escribano said, adding the negotiating committee had agreed to some changes as to how this matter would be discussed.
If the current dynamic of negotiations continues as it has until now, many days will pass before an accord to end the strike at the UPR’s Río Piedras campus, which entered its 31st day Sunday. Ten of the UPR’s 11 campuses are on strike, with university’s medical school being the only campus to remain operating because students there did not pass a strike vote.
“Both sides have to yield, but this is a reflection of bad faith. It gives us much sadness for the losses that have been reported, but we must solve the conflict and each side must do its part by presenting proposals, as we have done,” Ríos Escribano said.
Negotiations are scheduled to resume at 6 p.m. today, when the two sides will continue talks about the UPR’s budget and amendment the UPR’s Board of Trustees made to Certification 98 or tuition waivers. The negotiations are starting late because National Negotiating Committee members want to participate in today’s general assembly of students at  UPR’s Mayagüez campus, scheduled to begin at 9 a.m.
The group known as the Silent Majority called for massive turnout to today’s general student assembly in Mayagüez to call for the campus to be reopened.
“The majority has to be the evident majority in the assembly in order to stop abuses and injustices our peers have committed against us by keeping the gates to our campus closed,” group spokesman Eduardo Náter said.
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More protests scheduled
The National Coordinator of UPR Campuses announced a march in support of education, work and life that is being scheduled this Thursday at 3 p.m. Protestors will march from Luis Muñoz Marín Park in Puerta de Tierra to La Fortaleza. The Labor Coalition said it will participate in this protest.
Coalition spokeswoman Mariana Iriarte Mastronardo said “we need a movement that transcends” the students’ fight.
“Our country’s future is in our hands, but we need a movement that transcends the student movement. We need unity between workers, communities, social action groups and marginalized sectors, Iriarte said. This movement should “have the capability of forcing the government to legislate in favor of the interests of the working class.”
Marimar Berberena Alonso, another coalition spokeswoman, said, “we reiterate our calls for zero tuition hikes, for tuition waivers to be respected, that there be no reprisals, that negotiations continue and that Law 7 and the firings of public and private employees be repudiated.”
The Broad Front for Solidarity and Fight, the Coalition All Puerto Rico for Puerto Rico, the Labor Coalition, have been invited to participate in the protest, Iriarte said.
Social workers who have graduated from UPR’s Río Piedras campus also announced they would be holding a protest this Tuesday at 6 p.m. in front of UPR’s gate in front of the Social Sciences Department to support striking students.
Meanwhile Puerto Rican Independence Party Secretary General Juan Dalmau Ramírez said the party will be presenting a resolution to its municipal lawmakers calling for them to support the UPR strike.
Inter News Service and Cyber News Service contributed to this report.
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