Despite not having been among the main lines of work of the III Regional Conference on Higher Education in 2018, the debates on decent work for workers in Higher Education have a long history, which began in 2008 at the II CRES in Cartagena de Indias. There, the way was paved from the region for a consensual positioning at the World Higher Education Conference in Paris in 2009, when higher education was defined as a public and social good. 

This new conceptual approach boosted the process of rapprochement and unity among university trade union organizations, as well as worker-student articulation in the struggle for their rights. In the Third CRES (Córdoba, 2018), the sector conquered significant advances, with the inclusion of commitments and fundamental principles such as freedom of association, respect for labor rights and the promotion of decent work in the university environment in the Declaration of Córdoba.

After the CRES 2018, the proposal to include decent work as a central axis in the 2022 World Higher Education Conference was a new element of coordination and strengthening of working voices in the region. However, despite its efforts, its incorporation into the agenda of the multilateral meeting was not achieved. Nevertheless, through consensus between UNESCO IESALC and the entire Latin American higher education community, Decent Work was included as Axis 7 for CRES+5. 

Paola Rebeca Arteaga, Vice-president of the Latin American Federation of Scientific Workers

One of the key ideas of this axis is that there can be no quality higher education without decent work for all those who dedicate their lives to the university, teachers and non-teachers, without distinction. Work in higher education – as in all sectors – must comply with the principles defined by the International Labour Organization (ILO), such as fair and dignified conditions with respected rights; the exercise of freedom, equality, security and human dignity; productive employment with a fair income; possibilities for personal development and integration and participation in decision-making bodies on labor rights. At the same time, higher education as a professional sector has specificities that need to be taken into account, especially due to the transformations driven by the COVID-19 pandemic. Thus, the tasks facing this working group towards CRES+5 include the evaluation of progress and, above all, the proposal of priorities and concrete actions that should guide the region between now and 2028.

Leading this axis of work are: Paola Rebeca Arteaga López, SECTEI innovation project coordinator; Fabio Garcia Reis, Director of Innovation and Networks at SEMESP; Luis Bonilla Molina, member of the Steering Committee of the Latin American Council of Social Sciences (CLACSO); and Marcelo Di Stefano, Executive Secretary of the Confederation of University Workers of the Americas (CONTUA).