|The Athens Students’ Association protests in front of the Titania hotel,
where the Teachers’ Union representatives are holding their meeting.
The issue of secondary school teachers going on strike during the national university entry examinations took a new turn last night as the conference of heads of regional teacher unions (ELME) seemed to orient itself towards suspending the strike, despite the overwhelming vote in favour of the strike by teachers’ general assemblies one day earlier.
The situation stands as follows:
- On Friday 10 May, the head of the National Confederation of Secondary Education Teachers (OLME) announced that the OLME board was recommending a 24-hour strike on the first day of the university entry examinations, followed by a 5-day strike next week, to protest new austerity measures forced by the government on the education sector. The regional ELME were due to hold general assemblies to approve or reject this proposal on Tuesday 14 May, after which the strike would be officially announced.
- The government retaliated by announcing as early as Friday evening an order for the civil mobilization of teachers, and began issuing and distributing mobilization orders on Monday morning, i.e. before the strike was even official. It must be noted here that the civil mobilization order is open-ended, meaning that the right to strike of teachers has de facto been revoked until further notice. Teachers and other professional groups who joined them in solidarity held a demonstration in front of parliament in the evening of Monday 13 May to protest against the authoritarian approach of the government in dealing with industrial action.
- The ELME general assemblies were held on Tuesday 14 May. Turnout was extremely high across the country and teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of the strike despite the civil mobilization order. It was however unclear if this vote was merely symbolic or if the assemblies actually intended to hold the strike.
- The government’s civil mobilization order generated an outpouring of solidarity statements towards OLME, from unions and associations in Greece but also abroad. In Greece however, tensions among major labour unions are running high: OLME was extremely critical of ADEDY (the umbrella union of civil servants) for deciding to go on strike on Tuesday 14 April instead of Friday, as requested by the teachers. ADEDY and GSEE (the General Confederation of Workers) are also walking out for 3 hours today to protest against civil mobilization. The communist-affiliated union PAME opposed the OLME strike from the start and had come up with an alternative proposal, which was rejected by ELME assemblies. On the other hand, the Primary School Teachers’ Federation will go on strike tomorrow in solidarity with their colleagues from secondary education.
- The heads of ELME were meeting in Athens last night to take a final decision with regard to the OLME strike. The conference voted in favour of the strike in principle, but a second vote pertaining to the actual feasibility of the strike came up with 18 ayes, 9 nays and 57 blank votes. Representatives of unions affiliated with New Democracy, PASOK and SYRIZA on the OLME board argued that these results show that the strike is not feasible and should therefore be suspended. Representatives of unions affiliated with radical left-wing parties accused them of selling out the strike and the general assemblies’ vote. SYRIZA in particular came under fire for refusing to shoulder the political responsibility of supporting an actual strike despite civil mobilization.
The ELME conference ended at 1am EEST without a clear decision, after a process that was one step short of a brawl. The OLME board is due to meet again today around midday.
|Flyer prepared by the Petroupoli Parents’
Union, demanding free public education for all
Regional teachers’ unions (ELME) voted yesterday on the proposal to strike put forward by the Federation of Secondary Education Public School Teachers (OLME) to stage a strike on the first day of the national university entry examinations on 17 May and then to continue with a five-day strike on 20-24 May. The Communist-affiliated labour union PAME came up with a counter-proposal to hold a strike on 16-17 May only.
Participation was very high nationwide in the ELME assemblies, which voted massively in favour of the strike proposed by OLME, despite an order for civil mobilization of teachers issued preemptively by the government that came in effect today at noon. Under the terms of civil mobilization, teachers who actually go on strike face the risk of losing their jobs, or worse. It remains to be seen if the strike will actually take place or if the vote was merely a gesture of defiance by teachers towards the government.
|“They told me to wear the uniform”
A teacher protests in front of parliament on 13 May in Syntagma square
Picture by @MakisSinodinos
Greek secondary education teachers, together with various groups who joined them in solidarity, held a demonstration yesterday in front of parliament to protest the government’s decision to issue preemptively a civil mobilization order for 86,000 teachers in order to prevent a possible strike on the first day of the national university entry exams, as proposed by the Federation of Secondary Education Teachers (OLME). The Council of State, Greece’s highest administrative court, rejected yesterday a request by OLME for temporary suspension of the civil mobilization order, despite the dubious legality and constitutionality of back-to-work legislation issued before a formal decision to go on strike is officially approved by regional unions.
Teachers are the third professional group, after employees of the Athens metro and sailors, to be hit by a civil mobilization order since the current coalition government was elected to power. Trucking contractors and municipal workers’s strikes were also broken in this way in 2010 and 2011. Of a total of 11 civil mobilization orders issued in Greece since the fall of the Junta, 5 were issued in the framework of bailout austerity policies.
The Omikron Project team, who seek to break, through video spots and ads, the various European stereotypes about Greeks and Greece in the context of the financial crisis, completed their second cartoon. The video’s protagonist is Alex, a Greek worker whom many international media describe as lazy, and who therefore is perceived as deserving the punishment of austerity imposed upon him by the European Union.
This second episode uses official Eurostat data to compare the working hours, annual leave and age of retirement of Greeks and other Europeans, as well as their average salary in relation to the actual price of goods and services. The cartoon brings down yet another series of myths about Greeks, most of which seem to be due to the stereotypical image of Greece as a sunny holiday destination.
You can watch the first episode of “Alex the lazy Greek” here (it had more than 180,000 views on YouTube since it was released) and, since you’ll be on Omikron’s website, you can also check out their ad gallery.