The academic year is beginning with a difficult week for students. Professors at universities and technical colleges today began a five-day strike to press their demand for higher pay. Elementary and high school teachers will be holding meetings today and tomorrow to decide what they will do to press their demands for pay hikes. Talks between professors and the government collapsed on Friday when Deputy Finance Minister Nikos Farmakis told university staff representatives that the government could only offer them a raise of 7 percent next year and could not commit itself for 2005. The professors demand a commitment of 10 percent next year and another 10 percent the following year. They called off a long strike last year with the promise that this demand would be considered. The government fears that the pre-election period will lead to a number of professional groups and unions raising demands for more money at a time when the General Accounting Office has already warned that spending may exceed the 2003 budget’s forecast by 1.5 billion euros. National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis is expected to reply to the professors’ demands but it is not known when. They have threatened to keep their strike going indefinitely and have scheduled a march from the Old University on Panepistimiou St to the Education Ministry at 11 a.m. today.