Tensions peak as university staff fight reforms

Tensions in the higher education sector escalated on Thursday as hundreds of administrative staff from Athens University protesting their induction into a civil service mobility scheme said they would stop working in a bid to prove that the cutbacks would leave the institution unable to operate.

The 360 employees, who have been receiving a docked salary since they joined the scheme, had not been obliged to turn up to work but had been doing so in a bid to push their bid to be rehired. Now the institution will be left with 732 employees who, the protesting staff insist, are inadequate to guarantee the smooth running of the institution. The university’s rector Theodosios Pelegrinis called on the government to “keep its promises,” referring to agreements reached between unionists and former Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos, noting that insufficient staff could jeopardize the summer semester.

The remaining administrative staff were split on Thursday about how to proceed, although many are planning to attend a protest rally outside the entrance to the main university building this afternoon.

Employees from another seven universities affected by the troika-imposed mobility scheme are expected to join the protest on the second day of a two-day walkout.

Meanwhile government officials sought to play down suggestions by several recently appointed ministers that the mobility scheme and other reforms could be subject to amendment.

Transport Minister Michalis Chrysochoidis said government officials must implement reforms otherwise “we will always end up with troikan results and troikan methods.”