Greek workers walk out to protest ban on teachers’ strike
May 14, 2013
Greek public sector workers walked off the job on Tuesday to protest against a government decision to ban a strike by high-school teachers, shutting down several schools and reducing staff at hospitals to a minimum. Invoking emergency legislation, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has threatened teachers with arrest and dismissal if they go ahead with a planned walkout on Friday that would disrupt university entrance exams, as he tries to show Greece’s foreign lenders that Athens is sticking to unpopular reforms.
The action on Tuesday was the latest in a string of anti-austerity strikes since 2010, when Greece adopted severe budget and wage cut measures as part of its international bailout. The turnout was not near someone of the movement’s larger demonstrations; turnout in demonstrations last year topped 100,000 at times. But activists insist that they are committed to fighting for humanity.
“Our message, that we fully condemn these policies, was sent, despite the low turnout,” ADEDY’s general secretary Ilias Iliopoulos told Reuters. “The government must make up its mind and show that it does care about students and teachers.
The conservative-led coalition wants teachers to put in two more hours of work each week to reach the average levels of high school teachers’ working hours in Europe, and transfer 4,000 of them to remote parts of Greece to plug staffing gaps.
These measures would allow the government to dismiss about 10,000 part-time teachers when their temporary contracts expire, causing outraged unions & citizens alike to call for the 24-hour strike on Friday and rolling strikes next week.
The government responded by invoking a law that allows it to mobilize workers in the case of civil disorder or natural disasters.
ADEDY had disagreed with the high school teachers’ decision to hold a strike on the first day of exams because it would inconvenience students. However, it opposed the government using emergency laws to pre-emptively ban the action, saying this was undemocratic and violated workers’ constitutional rights. ADEDY and GSEE, Greece’s largest private sector union, are also planning a four-hour work stoppage on Thursday.
More than 1,000 high-school teachers marched to parliament late on Monday, holding banners reading: “No to the civil mobilization and this terror!” and “It won’t pass”.
GSEE and ADEDY represent more than half of Greece’s workforce, which has been shrinking rapidly during the crippling recession after years of austerity. As unemployment grows, unions may not yield as strong of turn outs as they have when they had higher membership, but the increasingly impoverished people of Greece will not tolerate limitless government oppression.