Public servants vow to join in teachers’ strike

Protest action against the government will intensify this week after public servants said yesterday they will march alongside striking teachers tomorrow as part of a month-long salary dispute that is far from being resolved. The civil servants’ union, ADEDY, announced a 24-hour strike for tomorrow and called on its members to take part in a demonstration in central Athens to protest what it calls «provocative behavior» from the Education Ministry. After weeks of high-profile protests, the ministry has refused to give in to preschool and primary teachers who are demanding a 45 percent pay rise for starting salaries. The government has repeatedly said that it does not have the budgetary strength to provide the pay rise but teachers are refusing to back down. The teachers appear ready to extend the strike, which is now in its fourth week. GSEE, the country’s largest union group, has also announced a four-hour work stoppage for tomorrow (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.) and invited its members to the rally, which could be one of the largest in the last few weeks. Unionists are hopeful a large turnout may influence the government in the last days before Sunday’s municipal elections. Yesterday’s demonstration held outside the Education Ministry ended in violence once again. About 1,000 demonstrators who had gathered clashed with police when they tried to force their way into the building. Education Minister Marietta Giannakou has offered to sit down at the negotiating table but only if teachers agree to return to their classrooms. High school teachers have also been on a 48-hour strike, which ends today. Meanwhile, Education Ministry officials have expressed concern that tension between educators and the government will spill over onto other student groups. About 100 secondary schools have been shut down by students who are seeking more government funding for education and a change to criteria used for entry into universities. Government sources pointed out that a number of those 100 schools will need to be used as election centers this weekend, complicating the issue further. According to Greek law, police cannot raid school grounds which have been taken over by students unless they have the specific permission of the university dean or school principal.

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