Teachers head for another week of strikes

Tens of thousands of teachers demonstrated in central Athens yesterday, pushing ahead with demands for a pay hike as they continue their strike action, which appears likely to head into a fourth week. With banners reading «a poor teacher means uneducated people,» preschool and primary teachers marched peacefully in a midday demonstration that ended with a concert. The Greek Primary Teachers’ Federation (DOE) were joined by secondary school counterparts, the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME), the civil servants’ union (ADEDY) and the Federation of Bank Employees’ Unions (OTOE). Rally organizers estimated that some 50,000 people took part in the march while police placed the figure closer to 10,000. DOE said last night that it intends to continue its strike for a fourth week, which will heap further pressure on the government to grant a 45 percent pay hike in starting salaries for teachers. OLME said they will also vote on holding a 48-hour strike on Monday and Tuesday in support of their colleagues. It is not clear how many educators are actually participating in the strike. Unions say 70 percent of teachers have stayed away from classrooms while the government insists the figure is 33 percent. Teachers said that some cash-strapped colleagues involved in the strike action have returned to work for a few days at a time to secure at least part of their regular salaries. Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis on Wednesday firmly supported his government’s tight fiscal policy, saying that he and his colleagues do not intend «to harm the [economic] future of Greece… so we become well-liked for a while.» However, sources said yesterday that the government is starting to feel uneasy about the ongoing tension that could spread to other sectors of education. Some state officials fear that more demonstrations in the last few days before the municipal elections on October 15 will weigh heavily against the government. Demonstrations are being scheduled for Monday and Wednesday next week.