Start of Argentina school year postponed by teachers' strike

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina’s new school year, scheduled to start on Wednesday, was widely postponed until next week by a three-day strike by teachers who say their wages are not keeping up with inflation.

Seven months ahead of an election in which center-right President Mauricio Macri is expected to face tough competition from the left-leaning branch of the Peronist coalition, only six of the country’s 24 provinces started classes on time.

With Argentina in recession and inflation clocked at more than 47 percent last year, the economy is the main election issue. In Buenos Aires, Argentina’s biggest province, teachers received a 32 percent raise in 2018 and want an additional 16 percent increase before negotiating their 2019 contract.

With consumer prices expected to rise more than 30 percent in 2019, voters are feeling the pain of public utility subsidy cuts under Macri’s unpopular fiscal austerity program.

Monday and Tuesday were holidays in Argentina, with the 2019 academic year scheduled to start on Wednesday after a Southern Hemisphere summer break that started before Christmas.

“We are starting this year’s classes in the streets, to demand dignified salaries,” teachers’ union official Eduardo Lopez told local radio.

Reporting by Gabriel Burin, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Steve Orlofsky