Protests rise, spike tension in education

Striking preschool and primary school teaching staff are likely to decide to extend protest action for a third week today, heightening tension as more educators side with disgruntled teachers. After walking off the job on September 18, members of the Greek Primary Teachers’ Federation (DOE) are expected to decide at a meeting today whether they will launch another five-day strike beginning Monday. Sources said that it is highly likely that the teachers would agree to extend their strike. In a sign that more educators are opposing the government, high school teachers also said yesterday that they are mulling a 48-hour strike. Pressure is also coming from the tertiary sector as the Panhellenic Federation of Teaching and Scientific Personnel (POSDEP), the university teachers’ union, announced that they will take part in today’s demonstration in the center of Athens. The march, scheduled to start at 12.30 p.m. in front of Athens University, will also be joined by ADEDY, the public servants union group. Demonstrations have so far this week been marked by clashes with police that demonstrators accuse of using excessive violence. Fighting off calls for her resignation, Education Minister Marietta Giannakou repeated yesterday that Premier Costas Karamanlis’s conservative government has met all pay demands. She also said Karamanlis supported her. «I have the full backing of the Prime Minister,» she said. Government officials said that teacher demands for a starting pay of 1,400 euros from the current monthly pay of 950 euros are not possible right now. «The further increase being sought is to the order of 45 percent. No other category of workers have asked for that sort of hike,» said government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos. Government sources blame PASOK for engineering the protest action and promising the head of DOE, Dimitris Bratis, an MP candidacy in the next national elections set to take place by March 2008. Other sources said the tension in the sector is supposed to help boost PASOK ahead of the October 15 municipal elections.