The strike at Etecs and Fatecs

Image: ColeraAlegria


Schools administered by Centro Paula Souza are at risk of losing their free access and quality in the face of neglect and recurring attacks on education

When we hear about Etecs or Fatecs, we immediately think of free, quality public education. But this story, which dates back to the 1970s and became a source of pride for the population of São Paulo, runs the risk of changing in the face of neglect and even recurrent attacks on education in recent years.

And in 2023 it has been even worse. Therefore, workers at these institutions, which are managed by Centro Paula Souza, an agency of the SP government linked to the Secretariat of Science, Technology and Innovation, decided to go on strike on August 8th. Two days later, almost half of the units were completely or partially paralyzed (143 out of 305), thus demonstrating the category's widespread dissatisfaction. But this mobilization, unfortunately, proved unsustainable over time, culminating in the vote to leave the strike in a meeting held on the 21st of the same month.

The movement's list of demands, concluded at the end of February and since then presented to the government by the union that represents the category, Sinteps, basically contained four items: (i) salary adjustment, (ii) bonus, (iii) career review and (iv) defense of Etecs. Even though these demands had been known for months, the Tarcísio government only received Sinteps to talk on August 3rd. And just to ask that the category not go on strike.

The SP government's salary adjustment proposal for this year was 6% for almost all employees, which is practically equivalent to inflation measured by the IPCA for last year (5,8%). This is insufficient to replace the category's salary losses in recent years, which, according to calculations during the mandate of councilor Paulo Bufalo, from PSOL in Campinas, amount to 53,9% in the last decade (average adjustment of 15,77% compared to accumulated inflation of 69,67%).[I]

In addition, of course, to clashing with the 50% increase received in silence by the governor and his secretaries[ii] and from the 13 to 34% received by some sectors of public security on the initiative of the government,[iii] discrepancies that, in themselves, highlight the priorities of the current administration, among which education is clearly not included.

The index currently claimed as a reference by Sinteps for adjustment is the correction of the National Education Floor (33,24% in 2022 and 14,95% in 2023 - which together, and adding last year's inflation, would give an equivalent adjustment to the value of the salary loss mentioned above, of 53,9%).

As for the bonus for the results achieved by each school in relation to the goals for graduates and grades established by the administration in 2022, the payment, which used to be made in the first semester, has not yet happened, nor does it have a defined deadline for it to occur. With the strike imminent, the government even announced to the union that it would take place until the end of October and that there would be an “effort” to bring it forward to September, but nothing beyond that. And the value, which last year corresponded to up to 2,4 salaries, this year was once again limited to just one.

The career review aims to correct a series of problems that make it increasingly less attractive and stimulating. Among the many examples that could be cited, in the case of teachers it is possible to mention the lack of a working day (the current system is hourly), the lack of immediate promotion through obtaining titles (today they only count after six years) , the lack of meal vouchers and the offer of a food voucher worth just R$12 per day of work (whereas, for other sectors of the same state public service, this value can reach R$60) etc.

Finally, regarding the defense of Etecs, this is a reaction to the SP government's threat to create a parallel technical education network,[iv] basically based on the same pillars of the model that the current secretary of education in São Paulo, Renato Feder, already tried to implement in Paraná when he was in charge of the same department there: electoral immediacy (producing a rapid and cheap expansion of technical education, even at at the cost of quality, to use these numbers in the next elections), privatization (in the case of Paraná, the 20% of distance classes allowed by the 2017 high school “reform” were offered by a private college) and precariousness (still in the case of Paraná , these distance classes consisted of rooms with forty students watching a television set – a sad but eloquent image of what Feder's project means, of setbacks with the appearance of modernization).[v]

In addition to being bad for education in itself, this model creates double spending and disregards an entire pre-existing structure considered to be of excellence. Despite this, it may have an advantage in the competition for scarce resources, since it is more “efficient” from the point of view of the Tarcísio government and its members' own interests, both electoral and market, which would harm Etecs.

The strike, although it is a legitimate instrument of workers' struggle, is an extreme measure, which creates uncertainty and, therefore, generates insecurity and anguish for the workers involved. In the case of education, it also ends up inevitably causing immediate losses to the teaching and learning process, which can be minimized but not completely eliminated by replacing classes. Even so, it was necessary, considering not only the scenario of neglect exposed above but also the fact that, without mobilization and popular pressure, education in São Paulo will not only remain as it is but will actually tend to get much worse, considering the countless attacks received from the current administration in just eight months.

Among the many examples, it is possible to mention the disastrous offensive for the digitalization of education promoted by Feder, contrary to what experts say,[vi] at odds with the infrastructure of most schools[vii] and in clear conflict of interests with his own status as a businessman and shareholder of a technology company with contracts signed with the government to offer digital devices;[viii] the project that places directors to monitor teachers' classes,[ix] overloading principals, treating teachers as suspects and pitting industry professionals against each other; the plan to reduce investment in education in the State from 30% to 25% of the budget;[X] the installation without consent of an application on the cell phones of teachers and students and its respective capture of personal data, as had already occurred in Paraná;[xi] a measure to expel students with 15 consecutive absences;[xii] own digital handouts with gross errors in content, such as the supposed existence of beaches in the capital of São Paulo or the signing of the Lei Áurea attributed to D. Pedro II[xiii] etc.

For a variety of reasons, including the insecurity of many temporary contracts, the discouragement of a devalued category and the individualism characteristic of our contemporary society, the strike was unable to move towards meeting their demands. But it managed, at least, to accelerate the presentation of guidelines for a future career review, which contains, among other points, the possibility of changing the hourly regime to working hours, as defended by the category's union.

Although the preference expressed by the government is for the working hours regime, which supposedly would also be more advantageous for workers because in theory it could pay little more, in practice the working day is more interesting because it improves working conditions in general: no it would force the teacher to teach in several different schools at the same time nor would it tie him to exclusive dedication, since the working day would be flexible (10, 20, 30 or 40 hours) and could be completed in up to two schools; it could put an end to the countless unpaid windows between one class and another, taking advantage of the teacher who is at school to develop projects; it could bring teachers closer to the school and the school community, with the possibility of developing teaching, research and extension projects; It could provide greater stability and integration of the teaching staff, which could indirectly influence the conditions for mobilizing the category for future movements demanding better working conditions and defending education.

But this is still just a proposal, which has just been put out for public consultation, from August 24th to September 1st. It still needs to go through all the bureaucratic procedures, running the risk of being changed or even rejected along the way. And the current government has plenty of reasons for not wanting to approve it, since the working day regime is considered more expensive and also more politically dangerous from the point of view of those who don't care about education, or even care, but just as a business opportunity.

Meanwhile, it is up to the population of São Paulo to be alert to join the fight in defense of free, quality public education whenever necessary, as happened successfully recently in relation to the defense of textbooks in schools, in which the SP government was forced to retreat from an unprecedented attack on public education after encountering strong resistance from society.

*Max Luiz Gimenes He is a professor at the Paula Souza Center and a doctoral student in sociology at USP.


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