Gov’t talks with teachers collapse, strike action looms

A meeting on Thursday between Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos and unionists representing teachers, thousands of whom face induction into a mobility scheme as part of a civil service overhaul, ended in deadlock with the prospect of strikes paralyzing schools next month appearing increasingly likely.

In comments after the meeting, Arvanitopoulos said there would be no teacher layoffs, adding that authorities were doing all they could to satisfy the preferences of educators who have been included in a list of compulsory transfers which aim to cover shortages with surplus staff. “I want to reassure all teachers that no jobs are at risk,” he said.

In July some 2,500 teachers were put into a mobility scheme, which foresees them getting reduced wages until their transfer to another post or dismissal. Of these teachers, a large number are to be transferred to jobs in the health sector, which is facing shortages. In an apparent response to criticism at this initiative, Arvanitopoulos said educators who teach health-related subjects will be the first to be transferred to health sector jobs. Members of the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME) said they were not satisfied with the minister’s reassurances. Earlier this week OLME’s president, Themis Kotsifakis, said teachers would hold strike action next month though he did not confirm what form it would take. “It is the government that will close schools with so many cutbacks,” he said.