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Colombia to Up Public Sector Wages by 6.75 Percent, as Teachers Strike


Colombian teachers and unions protest, demanding better salaries and working conditions, in Bogota, Colombia, June 6, 2017.

Colombia will raise the salaries of public employees by 6.75 percent this year, President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday, a move which may help end a more than three-week-long teachers strike.

The deal with seven public employee unions, which will increase the wages of 1.2 million workers, including educators, doctors, judges and members of the police and military, comes amid the teachers strike and various other walkout actions by public workers.

The increase is 1 percent above the 2016 inflation figure and will be retroactive, applicable from Jan. 1 of this year.

"This government prides itself on listening and looking for solutions through dialogue, without sacrificing the principles of authority and responsibility in the management of the budget," Santos said in a televised address.

The government also reached a deal this week to end a 21-day civil protest in the Pacific port city of Buenaventura which stymied exports, especially of coffee.

The powerful Colombian Federation of Education Workers (Fecode) union, which represents some 350,000 teachers, has not yet backed down from its strike, which has kept 8 million public school students out of classes since mid-May.

Despite salary increases in recent years, many teachers say their salaries are not adequate compensation for work which often requires extensive and expensive higher education and training.

"I call on all the teachers of this country to return to classes and together we can guarantee the education of Colombia's children and young people," Santos said.

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