Government, universities edge toward a compromise

After 11 weeks of strike action that has crippled the higher education sector and left thousands of students in limbo, the government and university authorities appeared to be edging toward a compromise over a dispute regarding the number of administrative staff being put in a mobility scheme of forced transfers and layoffs.

A series of meetings between Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos and university rectors resulted on Monday in an agreement between the two sides that will see significantly fewer employees entering the scheme, Kathimerini understands.

The ministry agreed to scale back its original demand for 1,349 employees for the scheme to 1,160. Of the 1,160 employees, a total of 650 will be relocated to posts at other universities. Meanwhile an additional 290 workers, who were found not to have submitted their official papers to authorities conducting an evaluation of university staff, are to be added to the 1,160 in the mobility scheme pool.

Despite the clear progress in bridging the gulf between the two sides, the deadlock had not been entirely overcome late on Monday.

The senate of Athens University welcomed the ministry’s concessions, describing them as “positive” and “a significant and responsible step toward reopening universities.” But the senate of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) retained a hardline stance, calling for the abolition of the mobility plan and the launch of dialogue between the two sides.

It was unclear what impact Monday’s developments would have on administrative workers who are on Tuesday to continue a 48-hour strike launched the day before.

It was also unclear what the troika would make of the ministry’s concessions to university staff.

As for the prospects of thousands of students who have been unable to attend lessons due to the protracted action by workers, Arvanitopoulos said he would “take all the necessary measures” to make sure that the first semester is not lost.

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