The Greek Parliament, controlled by the ruling coalition government of Prime Minister Antonis Samaras’ New Democracy Conservatives and his partner, the PASOK Socialists, approved a bill that would let the administration proceed to overhaul high schools and transfer, suspend or fire teachers to meet the demands of international lenders.
Only 98 of the 300 members were present when the crucial bill was presented and was passed by a margin of 52-45, with all the available New Democracy and PASOK members voting the way they were told by their party leaders.
The Minister of Education Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos said, “There are no excessive educators, nor is anyone at risk from the suspensions,” and appealed to the teacher unions to reverse their plans for rolling five-day strikes beginning Sept. 16. They believe many teachers are in line to be fired despite what the government said.
Arvanitopoulos accused the opposition parties of petty politics and announced his intention to submit an amendent to protect teachers although he didn’t say how that would accomplish the goal of reducing the workforce and public payroll. He was sharply critical of the teachers’ union OLME and said the government is doing what must be done.