Weeks of teachers' strikes end


On October 30 primary and preschool teachers went back to the classrooms, ending seven weeks of strikes and actions, with their key demand of a 40% wage increase unmet. They will continue their campaign for wage justice with 24-hour strikes and education rallies on November 3 and 9.

According to ERT, the Greek public broadcaster, the chairperson of the Greek Primary Teachers Federation (DOE), Dimitris Bratis, said that they are going back to work for the sake of the children, and not because their demands had been met. Bratis added that the government should feel humiliated for not agreeing with the teachers' demands.

What began as a strike of primary school teachers has snowballed into a challenge the conservative New Democracy government, with secondary teacher demonstrations, occupations by high-school students, public-sector strikes, and strikes by university lecturers and transport workers. Some university students have also occupied their faculties.

Primary school teachers began their strikes on September 18. Each week they have been staging strikes and demonstrations in Athens. The teachers are demanding a wage increase from about 1000 euros per month to 1400 and better working conditions. The conservative, New Democracy government has proposed that a 105 euro state benefit be paid in four instalments rather than six and that teachers will be given a wage increase, if the economy can afford it, of about 17.50 euros a month

Soon after primary school teachers struck, the secondary teachers joined in the spiralling protests, along with other workers. So, for example: on October 9-10 secondary teachers struck for 48 hours; on October 11 Greece's public servants went on strike for 24 hours, shutting down government departments, state banks and public transport, to protest the government's austerity budget — university lecturers and education department workers also struck on this day. There were other education-sector strikes on October 17-19 and October 24-26. On October 18, 10,000 teachers and their supporters rallied in Athens. On October 25, workers and students protested in 30 cities.

Despite the teachers returning to work, more than 1000 high schools across Greece are occupied. In Athens a new organisation — the Council of Athenian Schools in Struggle — has been formed to coordinate the occupations. Secondary students are demanding the government scrap the law that students must obtain at least a 50% average on their university or technical college entrance exam to get a place in a higher education institution. Slogans include, "No, their attacks will not pass" and "Waiting for laws to be scrapped, all onto the streets".

A number of university faculties have been also been occupied. These occupations came after June 8 university student protests when 20,000 students marched through the centre of Athens, the largest university student protest in 20 years.

In June, 447 university departments were occupied across Greece demanding the government's new university law be stopped. The law included a strict timeline for students to finish their course, restriction of student control of university asylum that disallows police on campuses, and ending free university textbooks.

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