First semester in jeopardy as university staff extend strike

Administrative staff at Athens University and the National Technical University of Athens Thursday decided to extend an ongoing strike that has paralyzed the institutions into a 13th week, calling rolling walkouts until next Tuesday in a continued protest at government plans to put hundreds of workers into a scheme of forced transfers and layoffs.

Workers are to rally outside Athens University at noon on Friday.

There had been signs of a breakthrough earlier this week after talks between Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos and university rectors led to both sides compromising and the former agreeing to a smaller number of staff entering the so-called mobility scheme. But Thursday Administrative Reform Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, who is overseeing the overhaul of the civil service, appeared to scupper that agreement, saying that “there is no way” the original number of 1,349 employees slated to join the scheme could be reduced.

Arvanitopoulos on Thursday blamed the breakdown on pressure on unionists by leftist SYRIZA and far-left Antarsya. He has said he will take “all necessary measures” to ensure that students do not lose their first semester. It is unlikely this can be achieved but there were suggestions on Thursday that lessons could be held over weekends and holidays to help students to catch up.

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