Strike talks hit dead end

A meeting between union representatives and Education Minister Marietta Giannakou yesterday failed to find the formula to end a five-week teachers’ strike as hopes for an immediate end to the standoff faded. Talks between Giannakou and the Greek Primary School Teachers’ Federation (DOE) along with the Federation of Secondary School Teachers (OLME) ended with the government again refusing educators’ demands for a 45 percent pay hike to starting salaries. «The minister insists on the same proposal. We have no choice but to continue our strike,» said DOE president Dimitris Bratis after the two-and-a-half-hour meeting. The meeting ends immediate hope that the government and teachers could work out a compromise after talks between the two sides collapsed more than a month ago. Sources said that Giannakou also turned down a request from teachers for the steep pay hike to be granted over a three-year period. «The economy cannot withstand paying more than the 105-euro allowance which has already been granted,» she said, referring to a benefit which will be paid to teachers in six monthly installments. With teachers now expected to extend their strike into a sixth week, PASOK leader George Papandreou said yesterday the Socialists will intervene in a bid to help end the crisis. «Thousands of families are experiencing problems (from the strike) and valuable teaching time is being lost,» he said. Apart from the teacher pay dispute, tension in the sector is likely to rise next week when a bill introducing the state recognition of private universities is scheduled to head to Parliament. According to ministry estimates, there are currently some 600 secondary schools across Greece that have been closed by protesting students. University and technical college students were expected to also start occupying their school grounds as of yesterday in opposition to the bill they say will harm state funding to the tertiary sector.