Despite warnings from Prime Minister Antonis Samaras that he would issue a civil mobilization order to force them back to work under the threat of arrest or being fired – neither of which happened – striking administrative staff at eight Greek universities have defied him and will enter a 12th week of staying off the job on Nov. 25 – with pay.
More than 1,000 students staged a peaceful protest on Nov. 22 outside the main entrance to Athens University, calling for the institution to reopen but the staff ignored them and said they won’t return to work until the government drops its plans to transfer, suspend or fire 1,300 of them on the orders of international lenders who want the work force pared.
Although staff of the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) have also been on strike for 11 weeks, protesting their induction into a scheme of forced transfers and layoffs, lessons and examinations are not being disrupted.
The senate at Athens University asked Samaras to step in but he hasn’t. Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos is said to be reluctant to force the strikers back to work and has been talking fruitlessly with them as they have defied him too and there are no signs that the school year, that was supposed to begin three months ago, would open, raising the possibility of a lost year for an entire class of students.
On Nov. 22, Arvanitopoulos started holding individual meetings with the rectors of the eight universities affected by the mobility scheme. Yiannis Mylopoulos, the chief of the council of university rectors, who heads Thessaloniki’s Aristotle University, said he did not regard the minister’s initiative to hold individual meetings with rectors as “dialogue,” adding that “the issue of the mobility scheme is an unresolved one.”
Meanwhile the Athens public prosecutor’s office ordered an investigation – the third since workers’ launched their strike – into the legal grounds for the workers’ action in view of court rulings that have deemed it illegal, which the strikers have defied as well as it’s common in Greece for people not to obey laws they don’t like, which are most of them, with few consequences.