On Sunday, June 4, Colombia's largest teacher union - the Federación Nacional de Educadores (Fecode) - continued talks with the government over pay increases and better working conditions as a teacher strike entered its fourth week. Teachers are demanding a 35 percent increase in salaries and bonuses, as well as investment in education infrastructure and an improvement in the quality of school meals, among other demands. The government has offered a 15 percent increase, stating that a 35 percent increase would cost an unreasonable 450 billion pesos (USD 155 million).
During negotiations on Sunday, Fedcode rejected a government proposal for a third-party mediator. Fecode has called for a "permanent occupation" to take place in Bogotá beginning Tuesday, June 6. According to the union, teachers will begin marching toward Bolivar Square at 09:00 (local time) and will remain there until their demands are met. Associated transportation disruptions are to be anticipated and outbreaks of violence (e.g., clashes with police) are possible.
According to a collective bargaining law in Colombia, if an agreement between a union and the government has not been reached after 20 days of striking, with the possibility of a 20 day extension, a third-party mediator is required to continue negotiations.
On May 16, tens of thousands of people took to the streets in anti-government protests following a failed round of negotiations between education sector workers and the government over wage increases and improved working conditions. Teachers have been on strike since May 12 and some eight million students have been out of school since the strike action began. A recent report by organization the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) slammed the country's poor and failing education system and urged the Colombian government to improve national standards and the quality of education, increase public investment by prioritizing preschool education for the most disadvantaged, and set better teacher training policies.
Social tensions are on the rise across the country due to poor economic conditions following a decline in commodity prices, insecurity, and rampant corruption and tax evasion. A major protest movement is ongoing in Buenaventura denouncing state neglect and corruption.
Individuals present in Colombia are advised to avoid all demonstrations as a precaution.