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Athens University staff strike could be losing steam

Students who oppose the ongoing strike by university workers hold a banner reading ‘Open schools: Here and now’ in central Athens on Thursday. At the same time, a separate group of students held a rally across Panepistimiou Street expressing solidarity with the striking staffers.

While a deadlock between striking administrative staff at Athens University and Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos appeared no closer to a resolution on Thursday, the position of the strikers is expected to be weakened by a decision by their colleagues at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) to resume classes as usual on Monday.

Administrative staff at Athens University and the NTUA have been on strike for 13 weeks in protest at government plans to place them in a civil service mobility scheme that will see them receiving 75 percent of their regular pay for a period of eight months while they undergo an evaluation that will determine whether they will be transferred or fired.

Staff at Athens University on Thursday said that they will continue the strike, certainly through Monday, when they will meet again to decide on possible further action. The staff rejected a proposal by Arvanitopoulos to keep some of them in the same job on reduced wages, therefore increasing their chances of being rehired after the end of the eight-month evaluation period.

Sources within the union representing the Athens University staff suggested that there were rifts within their ranks in regard to the Education Ministry’s proposal, leading the government to believe that the protest action is running out of steam, especially as staff at the NTUA have accepted the deal.

However, Arvanitopoulos on Thursday met with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and Deputy Prime Minister Evangelos Venizelos in a bid to confirm their support. Sources also suggested that they agreed not to consider issuing a civil mobilization order to force the staff back to work, as it would be an excessive political risk to take for just one university.

Meanwhile, relations between the ministry and Athens University are expected to become even testier next week as rector Theodosis Pelegrinis is due to defend himself on Monday before a disciplinary committee over charges of dereliction of duty brought against him by Arvanitopoulos.

Pelegrinis has consistently backed the striking workers and recently sued the university’s council for slander after it suggested that he was to blame for the recalcitrant stance of the protesting staff. , Thursday December 5, 2013 (22:06)  
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