NEWS

Professors call strike

Professors at universities and technical colleges called a five-day strike for next week and have warned of an indefinite walkout unless the government concedes to their demands for higher pay. Talks broke down yesterday when Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Farmakis offered professors a 7 percent increase, instead of the 20 percent over two years that the professors demanded. Sources said that National Economy and Finance Minister Nikos Christodoulakis and PASOK General Secretary Michalis Chrysochoidis met last night to see if they could improve the government offer. A protracted strike by professors – who are likely to be joined by secondary and elementary school teachers soon – could cause serious damage to the ruling PASOK party’s efforts to appear to be satisfying the demands of many social and professional groups in the runup to next spring’s elections. Prime Minister Costas Simitis has announced a program of handouts and wage increases that are expected to cost a total of 2.6 billion euros. But the government also has to control spending as various groups, seeing the handouts, raise their own demands for more money. The General Accounts Office warned yesterday that spending this year was in danger of exceeding budget forecasts by 1.5 billion euros, because of increased spending on Olympic projects and greater primary spending, including increases in wages and pensions. Representatives of elementary school teachers are to meet on Tuesday to discuss what action they will take if the government rejects their demand for a 176-euro bonus that other civil servants get. University professors have scheduled a protest march from the old University on Panepistimiou Street to the Education Ministry at Syntagma Square at 11 a.m. on Monday. The government yesterday offered them a 7 percent increase in gross wages for next year without any commitment for 2005. Farmakis also said that bonuses would not be incorporated in their salaries. «We are not going to negotiate any further, this is a travesty. We will continue our protest,» the president of the national federation of university professors (POSDEP), Christos Trikalinos, told Kathimerini. He said that the 7 percent would turn into 2.8 percent after a 40 percent tax and 1.5 percent increase in social security payments were levied.