Greek state workers walked off the job on Tuesday to protest a government decision to ban a strike by high-school teachers,shutting down schools and reducing staff at hospitals to a minimum.
Invoking emergency powers under Greek law,Prime Minister Antonis Samaras has threatened teachers with arrest and dismissal if they begin a planned walkout on Friday that would disrupt university entrance exams,as he tries to show Greece’s foreign lenders that Athens is sticking to unpopular reforms.
This is the latest in a string of anti-austerity strikes since the country adopted severe budget and wage cut measures as part of its international bailout in 2010.
But fewer and fewer workers have been heeding trade union calls to down tools because the strikes have failed to stop the government from implementing austerity measures and increasingly impoverished Greeks cannot afford to lose more wages.
“This is our response to the government’s authoritarian policies against high-school teachers,” public sector union ADEDY said in a statement,demanding a meeting with Samaras.
“These decisions are creating an explosive situation in the education sector with the victims being the teachers as well as students and their parents.”
Teachers,doctors and local administration workers are to rally in central Athens around 0700 GMT. Municipal and local tax offices are expected to be shut during the 24-hour strike by ADEDY.
The union is also planning a four-hour work stoppage on Thursday in solidarity with protesting teachers. The country’s largest private sector union,GSEE,will join the stoppage on Thursday.
The conservative-led coalition wants teachers to put in two more hours of work each week to reach the average levels of high school teachers’ working hours in Europe,and transfer 4,000 of them to remote parts of Greece to plug staffing gaps.
These measures would allow the government to dismiss about 10,000 part-time teachers when their temporary contracts expire,teachers’ union OLME said,calling for the 24-hour strike on Friday and rolling strikes next week.
The government invoked emergency powers on Sunday to block the teachers’ strike,using a law that allows it to forcibly mobilise workers in the case of civil disorder or natural disasters.
Police started distributing the orders on Monday,forcing teachers to go to work on Friday or face arrest and dismissal.
GSEE and ADEDY represent more than half of Greece’s workforce,which has been shrinking rapidly,reflecting the pain caused by the crippling recession after years of austerity.
“We are protesting against a government that continues its anti-democratic slide by implementing the usual,cruel measure of precautionary civil mobilisation,with which it has replaced dialogue,” GSEE said.