Teachers’ unions point to major staff shortages ahead of strikes

The government is to face its first major wave of protests against its overhaul of the civil service next week with high school teachers deciding to launch rolling five-day strikes from next Monday, September 16.

The Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME) announced their decision late on Monday after 72 of its 85 local chapters voted in favor of the strike action. On Tuesday teachers rallied in central Athens to draw public attention to their grievances. Their protracted industrial action will cause serious disruption to schools which are to resume classes again Wednesday after the summer break.

But teachers insist that their induction into the mobility scheme – which foresees them receiving reduced wages ahead of their transfer to other posts or dismissal – is the last straw. Already working conditions are unacceptable, unionists say, claiming that secondary schools are short of 16,000 staff following a wave of early retirements. Primary schools and kindergartens have also been affected, according to the unions that represent the teachers there and who refer to shortages of around 6,000.

Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos disputed the figures given by unionists. Addressing Parliament, he said, “How can we talk about vacancies before the academic year has even started?”

The union representing primary school teachers (DOE) is to decide Wednesday whether to join OLME’s strike action, which will overlap with a 48-hour walkout called by the umbrella civil servants’ union ADEDY for September 18 and 19.

Private school teachers are also planning to walk off the job next Monday and Tuesday. Their union objects to legislation aimed at overhauling the curriculum at secondary schools which they perceive to be rigid and outdated.

There will also be disruption in the higher education sector from Wednesday as administrative staff who are being inducted into the civil servants’ mobility scheme are to launch a three-day walkout.

In May the government issued mobilization orders to secondary school teachers who had called a strike for May 17, the first day of university entrance examinations.

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