Striking teachers ordered back to work

OLME on strike

The Greek government has issued orders for teachers to halt a planned strike over working conditions this week.

Submitted by Thrasybulus on May 12, 2013

This weekend the Greek government ordered striking teachers back to work. The union of secondary school teachers(OLME) had voted on strike action to take place starting this week. In an attempt to stifle the strike before it could begin the government issued civil mobilisation orders. Under such an order a worker must return to work or face arrest.

The decision to take strike action was prompted by new measures against teacher's working conditions. Recently the government pushed further austerity measures through parliament which included making teachers work an extra two hours each week in the next academic year. For a teacher two hours extra in class can easily mean another two hours extra preparation work they have to do outside of school hours. So the increased hours, coming at a time of decreasing pay, are not insubstantial.

The government's reasoning is that by forcing current teachers to work more they will save money by employing fewer teachers. This reason disregards the still rising 27% unemployment rate(64% for young people) and the effect that burdening teachers with extra work will have on the quality of education. This will further damage the education system in Greece which has been repeatedly hit by austerity measures over the last three years.

The strike action is planned to start this week and continue next week but has not yet begun. Despite the action not yet being under way the conservative government has already ordered civil mobilisation of the teachers. Mobilisation orders will be issued on Monday to over 80,000 teachers who face arrest should they not return to work. Civil mobilisation is a practice which was meant to be used for natural disasters and emergencies but is quickly becoming this government's default method of dealing with strikes. So far this year two mobilisation orders have been issued against dock and public transport workers, both orders being enforced by the deployment of riot police.

The government justified it's decision by labelling the teachers of the nation's children a 'threat to society' with the strike planned to begin on the first day of the Panhellenic exams. These exams are taken by Greek students to determine their ability to enter university and are taken very seriously. This in turn leads to extraordinary pressure being put on students as they are told their whole life depends on the results.

With the strike yet to begin it's outcome is unknown. Previously the threat of mass arrest has forced other striking sectors to back down and no doubt the government and the media will roll out anguished and distressed parents and students in order to pressure the teachers to back down. On the other hand the teaching sector is far larger than the others which have been previously issued orders. The reaction of the students will also be key. OLME have called for a demonstration on Monday afternoon and are asking other unions to declare a general strike later on in the week.

The issuing of the mobilisation orders pre-emptively, the labelling of striking workers as a 'threat to society' and the looming possibility of riot police being deployed to schools all point to an increasing authoritarian trend from the Greek state.



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Submitted by cognord on May 15, 2013

Quick note- the increase of 2 hours is estimated to result in 10,000 teachers losing their jobs, as the increase will reduce the amount of teachers to be employed.

OLME proposed a strike action, during the exams, a vote that has to be taken up by the local councils of ELME to actually come into practice. The forced mobilisation of the teachers came before the strike was voted in by the local ELME. So far, with an unheard of participation (usually reaching more than 75%), the ELME have voted for the strike.

Struggles around the education system are always mass mobilisations, because they necessarilly involved the majority of society (teachers, the pupils, their parents, etc).

It is crucial to keep in mind that the government is effectively doing a show of force. The mobilisation of 80,000 teachers was not necessary in order for the exams to happen. If, at all, the government could have only mobilised the supervisors for the exams, a much much smaller number.

It seems like Greece is bracing itself up for a serious battle in the next days. One would hope that this struggle will re-ignite the anti'austerity movement, by spreading beyond the confines of an educational struggle. The reason is that It is becoming more and more evident that the government is rendering strikes illegal, since it uses forced mobilisations at every strike (this measure has been used 3 times already in 2013).

calls of solidarity should spread around immediately