Gov’t poised to use civil mobilization as teachers confirm strike

University entrance exams will go ahead as planned later this month, the government insisted Friday after secondary school teachers’ union OLME announced its members would strike during the test period. Kathimerini understands the government will force educators to work by issuing them with civil mobilization orders.

Exiting talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras Friday evening, Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos insisted there was no question of the exams being put off.

“We are determined to protect pupils’ and parents’ peace of mind,” he said.

Earlier, OLME had said teachers would walk off the job on Friday, May 17, which is the first day that senior high school students are due to sit their university entrance exams. The union said that its members would then go on a five-day strike from Monday, May 20, subject to approval of the move by its local chapters.

The Education Ministry had earlier described that decision as a “threat to society.” It also criticized OLME’s decision to allow the strike to stand even if just 30 percent of its members vote in favor of the action.

The dispute has been triggered by the government’s decision to force educators to teach for two extra hours each week, taking their weekly teaching time to between 20 and 23 hours. The Education Ministry says this will save tens of millions as it will have to hire fewer substitute teachers. OLME is concerned about extra pressure on teachers, job losses and an overall deterioration of public education.

The government, however, appears determined not to let its dispute with about 88,000 secondary school teachers stand in the way of some 110,000 university candidates taking their exams. Kathimerini understands Samaras and Arvanitopoulos agreed that civil mobilization orders should be issued from Monday rather than when OLME’s local chapters vote on Wednesday. The government used civil mobilization earlier in the year to break up a strike by public transport workers in Athens.

OLME’s president, Nikos Papachristos, said that a repeat of this tactic would “undermine democracy.”