Teachers launch strike, school guards clash with police

Secondary school teachers launched a five-day strike on Monday to protest the government’s overhaul of the civil service, attracting a surprisingly high turnout, as school guards, university staff and other public sector employees joined the action ahead of a two-day civil servants’ walkout starting on Wednesday.

According to the secondary school teachers’ union (OLME), some 90 percent of members joined the walkouts, much higher than had been expected by the government. The Education Ministry put participation at between 60 and 80 percent. However, it remained unclear whether teachers will be able to afford to stay the course of protracted industrial action called by their union as strike days are deducted from paychecks.

According to sources, OLME has decided on the creation of a “strike fund,” the proceeds of which will go toward supporting protesting teachers.

Of greater concern to the government, however, were reports that more than 10 school sit-ins had started. There are fears that a trend of schools being occupied will give momentum to the strike action following calls last week by leftist SYRIZA leader Alexis Tsipras for schoolchildren to support their teachers’ protests.

A protest rally by teachers in the center of Athens on Monday concluded peacefully. Earlier in the day, though, school guards, who are also protesting a civil service mobility scheme involving transfers and dismissals clashed with riot police outside the Administrative Reform Ministry. Five of the demonstrators were taken to the hospital with breathing problems but no injuries were reported.

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