Political tensions set to peak amid protests and troika inspection

As labor unions scale up their protests against economic reforms this week and technical-level troika inspections deepen, the conservative-led government is bracing for a clash with leftist SYRIZA which has thrown its support behind protesting civil servants from various sectors.

SYRIZA has publicly backed secondary school teachers, who launch five-day rolling strikes from Monday, as well as school guards and other employees who are actively protesting an overhaul of the civil service that the government must complete in order to clinch the next tranche of rescue funding from international creditors, worth 1 billion euros.

According to sources, Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his advisers are not convinced that SYRIZA can topple the government by backing striking workers. One aide dismissed SYRIZA’s calls for a protracted wave of protests with the goal of bringing down the coalition as “a half-hearted stab at a revolution.”

However, there are said to be fears – in the leadership of both conservative New Democracy and socialist PASOK – of the possible repercussions of extended strike action in the education sector, particularly if a large number of schools are occupied by teachers and pupils. Sources told Kathimerini that SYRIZA is planning to support sitins at specific secondary schools across the country.

As SYRIZA intensifies its anti-reform rhetoric, the government is reportedly planning to respond by accusing the leftists of undermining efforts to put the country on the road to economic recovery just as the first few positive signs have appeared.

Apart from the looming clash on the domestic level, the government must also contend with the troika. Technical teams have been in Athens since last Thursday to survey Greece’s progress in completing a series of “prior actions” that will clinch the next aid package. These include putting 12,500 civil servants – including teachers and university staff – into a mobility scheme by the end of this month, and another 12,500 by the end of the year. The scheme, which puts employees on a reduced wage ahead of their transfer to another job or dismissal, has fueled strong protests. It remains unclear, however, what proportion of workers can afford to join protracted walkouts as strike days are deducted from paychecks.

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