Teachers set to call off strike

Government officials and secondary school teachers appeared to be close to a compromise late on Wednesday as the teachers’ union (OLME) proposed that a teachers’ strike planned for tomorrow, which the government has essentially banned by issuing a civil mobilization order, be called off.

The proposal by OLME, where New Democracy, PASOK and main leftist opposition SYRIZA are represented, was expected to be accepted by representatives of local teachers’ associations, who remained locked in talks in Athens late on Wednesday. At least 80 percent had voted in favor of defying the order, according to sources. But this stance was seen as symbolic as it is unlikely teachers will risk arrest and dismissal.

Earlier in the day, Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos had insisted that university entrance examinations would begin as planned on Friday and would run “smoothly and on time.” But the government is taking no chances and will reportedly have police on standby to avert the possible blockade of an exam center. Also, additional auxiliary teachers have been hired to ensure there are no hiccups.

OLME’s decision on Wednesday night was preceded by a series of meetings with officials of New Democracy and PASOK. OLME reportedly pressed government officials to revoke the mobilization order, which is unlikely to happen, but sources said authorities may instead withdraw a presidential decree foreseeing compulsory transfers of teachers for review. The transfers are a key point of contention for teachers, who also oppose plans to increase their working hours.

Democratic Left, the third party in the coalition, proposed the parallel withdrawal of the government’s civil mobilization order and the teachers’ plans for action.

In a related development, human rights watchdog Amnesty International decried the government’s use of a “blanket prohibition on the teachers’ right to strike” as “unnecessary and disproportionate.”