Greek students go back to school, teachers go on strike over job cuts

By Maria Spiliopoulou

ATHENS, (PNA/Xinhua) — Greek students return to school this week after the summer holidays, as teachers from elementary to higher public education go on strikes in protest of the compulsory job transfers and layoffs of thousands educators.

The federation of secondary schoolteachers (OLME) supported by Left opposition parties organized a first rally in front of the parliament building in central Athens on Tuesday evening, shortly after announcing a series of rolling five-day strikes starting from September 16.

Schools start on Wednesday and unionists claim that they would not operate properly due to the scheduled job cuts of some 3,000 teachers and about 2,000 administrative personnel as part of Greece’s bailout commitments under agreements with its international creditors.

Teachers at state elementary and private schools join in the planned walkouts from next week, while staff at several universities nationwide already suspended operations from Monday for a week.

“We will fight to the end. It is a matter of survival in a country sinking in record high unemployment and recession,” protesters were saying on Tuesday on Syntagma square, waving banners with slogans such as “we are persons, not numbers.”

After three years of austerity under the plan agreed with European Union and International Monetary Fund lenders to face the Greek debt crisis, Greece posts 28 percent jobless rates and about 4 percent recession now in a sixth year.

However, the Greek government appears upbeat that growth will be restored next year and determined to proceed with the placement of a total of 25,000 civil servants under a so-called mobility scheme by 2014 in the framework of efforts to reduce costs and boost efficiency in civil services.

Under the scheme which has triggered strong reactions, employees will be receiving reduced pay, facing the prospect of firing after a year if no other post to be redeployed will be found.

The dismissal of employees in the context of the restructuring of Greece’s civil sector is unprecedented in a country where jobs in civil services have been guaranteed for life under the Constitution for decades.

Greece’s main unions of public and private sector schedule this autumn’s first general strike in protest of the mobility scheme and other policies on September 18 and 19, as the government expects the return of EU/IMF auditors to Athens to inspect the progress achieved in the fulfillment of bailout obligations in return for further rescue loans.