The Greek government denies secondary education teachers the right to strike. Greek teachers need all the solidarity they can get!

Panagiotis Sotiris [1]
 In the past three years Greek society has not only gone through a series of extremely aggressive austerity measures, under the terms dictated by the EU-IMF-ECB Troika that have led to a severe deterioration of living conditions. It has also been facing a constant erosion of democratic rights and basic civil liberties. Part of it is the attempt by the Greek government to practically abolish the right to strike in many sectors.
The last such example is the decision of A. Samaras, the Greek Prime Minister, to issue “political mobilization” orders for all secondary education teachers, because OLME, the Secondary Education Teachers Confederation, has announced that it would stage a strike during the University Entry Exams beginning May 17.
“Political Mobilization” is an authoritarian special legislation which gives government authorities the right to commandeer services, vehicles and equipment in order to deal with national emergencies, such as wars or natural disasters. Any person receiving a “political mobilization” order has to immediately comply, or face prison and loosing his work.
However, Greek governments have used it in recent years as a means to deal with militant strikes, although many legal experts have called this practice unconstitutional and in sharp violation of national and international laws safeguarding the right to strike. Recently, “political mobilization” orders have been issued for public transport workers and mariners. It is important to note that a “political mobilization” order, unless revoked, also prohibits any future strike action.
Secondary education teachers have decided to stage their strike in protest to recent legislation, issued in compliance to Troika demands, that includes mass lay-offs of thousands of substitute teachers, the ability to transfer teachers to a different area of Greece each year and an increase in teachers’ workload. Teachers in Greece have already suffered heavy wage reductions of up to 30% and the school system has suffered budget cuts and school mergers and closure as a result of the austerity measures.
The government has tried to present teachers as selfish and insensitive to the anxiety of their students before the exams. This is very cynical, if we take into consideration that the main reasons of anxiety of youths in Greece today, who are facing a devastating 60% youth unemployment rate, are the policies of the Greek government. The Secondary Education teacher’s strike is fully justified; it is a struggle defending public education.
Hopefully, there has been a wave of protest and solidarity to striking teachers. OLME is calling for a big rally on Monday 13 May to protest to “political mobilization” order, the confederation of parents’ associations and many unions have announced that they will take part in these protests.
It is obvious that the struggle in Greece is not simply against austerity. It is struggle for democracy, against the imposition of a neoliberal authoritarian “state of emergency”! Greek teachers need all the solidarity they can get!
[1] Panagiotis Sotiris teaches social theory and social and political philosophy at the Department of Sociology of the University of the Aegean. He can be reached at psot@soc.aegean.gr.
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