Greek University Staff Strikes In 12th Week

Striking university staff in Thessaloniki hold a protest rally

ATHENS – Continuing to defy Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and the courts, staff at eight Greek universities said they will continue their strike for a 12th week and not stop until the government withdraws a plan to get rid of as many as 1,300 of them.

Samaras had said he was considering issuing a civil mobilization order – as he did with striking Metro and port workers earlier this year – to force the university employees back to their jobs under the threat of being fired or arrested.

They ignored him, as they have several court rulings which found their action unlawful and the school year, which was supposed to begin in September, could be lost if they don’t return. They are being paid while they strike.

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.