Greek Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, for the third time this year, will reportedly issue a civil mobilization order forcing civil servants to work, this one against teachers before they could even begin a strike that would have postponed the Panhellenic university entrance exams on May 17 and the following week.
The previous orders were directed at seamen and metro workers, who were on extended strikes, but forced to return to work under threat of arrest or being fired and as the government sent in riot police to make sure they complied. Many of the seamen are being forced to work without pay.
Samaras, who is the New Democracy Conservative leader, has the support of his coalition partners, the otherwise pro-labor PASOK Socialists and tiny Democratic Left (DIMAR) which have ceded control to him.
Teachers, upset with reforms that would have required them to work an extra two hours a week – which they said would have led to the loss of jobs – planned to walk off the job during a time when they have to monitor the college exams, and were going to continue for another week beginning May 20.
The measure, due to be implemented in September, was voted for in Parliament in April during an emergency vote on an austerity package agreed with the country’s international lenders.
The newspaper Kathimerini said he would issue the go-to-work order against the teachers and that the exams would go ahead as scheduled despite the plans by the leaders of the union OLME to strike.
Exiting talks with Samaras the night of May 10, Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos insisted there was no question of the exams being put off. “We are determined to protect pupils’ and parents’ peace of mind,” he said.
The Education Ministry had earlier described that decision as a “threat to society,” to justify the decision, although there was no elaboration why striking teachers posed a menace. It also criticized OLME’s decision to allow the strike to stand even if just 30 percent of its members vote in favor of the action.
The Education Ministry said forcing teachers to work extra hours – without additional pay as their salaries have been cut as part of austerity measures – would save the government tens of millions of euros without the need to hire more substitute teachers.
OLME is concerned about extra pressure on teachers, job losses and an overall deterioration of public education and some teachers could have to move between two or more schools in the course of each day. There are 88,000 secondary school teachers and 110,000 university candidates taking exams.
OLME’s President, Nikos Papachristos, said that the government’s use of an order to break up a strike that hasn’t even begun would “undermine democracy.”