BOGOTA, Sept. 11 (UPI) -- Colombia's national teacher union, FECODE, said it has begun an indefinite strike after two weeks of unsuccessful negotiations with the government.
The strike and shutdown of the pubic school system began Tuesday, Colombia Reports said.
The disagreement is over an estimated $40 billion in unpaid wages and benefits that local, regional and national governments owe Colombia's teachers.
FECODE, which represents 350,000 teachers, was initially asking for $1.7 billion of that debt to be accounted for in the national budget.
"The government has played around with us for years now," FECODE Secretary-General Rafael Cuello Ramirez told Colombia Reports. "Why they still want to play games with us now, I don't know. But negotiations have gone absolutely nowhere, and now the government will have to deal with the consequences."
At least 17,000 public schools will close as the result of the strike and services to 12 million students will be suspended, the report said.