Greek police use tear gas on protesting school staff as teachers go on strike against cuts

 

Athens

Greece’s academic year had barely got started when it ground to a halt on Monday, with school and university teachers beginning the first of a series of strikes by public sector employees to protest against new austerity measures. 

Riot police used tear gas to disperse school security staff protesting in Athens outside the Administrative Reform Ministry where further cuts were being discussed under the bailout terms imposed by the ‘troika’ of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The strikes, organised by the teacher’s union OLME, were timed to exert pressure on the New Democracy government ahead of a visit next week by troika officials, to monitor Greece’s progress since it secured the funds to rescue it from bankruptcy.

Staff said they were striking over reduced salaries, slashed school budgets, and job cuts.

One primary school head teacher who wished to remain anonymous said: “Last winter we came very close to not being able to pay the school’s heating costs, and the school’s phone line was cut off because the bill could not be paid. I had to use my own mobile as the school’s contact.”

Earlier this year, the troika called for 12,000 to 15,000 public sector workers to be fired. The Greek government responded by putting together a so-called ‘mobility programme’ targeting 25,000 public sector employees. Contract staff such as cleaners, security personnel and school crossing guards have, in many cases, been laid off without any indication of where, if at all, they will be transferred to.

“I don’t know if I will have a job by December, or where I will be transferred. If I am placed far from my home there will be extra transport costs involved.” said Alexandra Yianopoulos, a cleaner at a high school.

Strikes are set to continue on Tuesday, with high school teachers, elementary school teachers and university professors expected to join a 48-hour strike being held by Greece’s civil servant union, ADEDY, on Wednesday and Thursday.

In a country with unemployment approaching 28 per cent and with a powerful lobby of unions, mass strikes are a common response to the government’s increasingly hardline approach to meeting the demands of the troika’s bailout package. 

Another of the measures teachers have objected to is the moving of specialist teaching staff such as language and music teachers from higher education into the primary education system, which they say is aimed at replacing more expensive contract staff.

Within the higher education system, professors are to teach longer hours to larger classes and for reduced pay. Several training colleges have also been closed and their staff made temporarily redundant with no timeframe for their assessment or placing.

The president of OLME, Themis Kotsifakis, said, “To be a teacher in Greece means a salary of less than EUR 1,000 a month for the first 15 years,” adding that salaries had been cut by 45 per cent in the last few years and the retirement age raised to 65.

“New laws are being proposed for an exam system that we believe will drive children out of the educational system and into apprenticeships, essentially into poorly paid child labour,” said Mr Kotsifakis.

He estimated that the strikes had attracted a 90 per cent participation rates, contrary to local media estimates of 40 per cent.

The IMF has projected that Greece will need a further €11 billion (£9 billion) in assistance in 2014 and 2015, prompting denials from Greek Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras and anger from an austerity-weary Greek public.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Creative Director / Head of Creative

£65K - £75K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Creative Director...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Luxury Brand

£18000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This global wholesaler and reta...

Recruitment Genius: Store Manager - Department Store

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This organization is one of the founding names...

Recruitment Genius: 2nd / 3rd Line IT Support Engineer - IT Managed Services

£30000 - £36000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company are loo...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence