Greece Fails to Break University Strikes

Greek Strike

With a strike at eight Greek universities in a 13th week and the semester ready to be wiped out for students who haven’t had classes even start at some of them, Education Minister Constantinos Arvanitopoulos has broken off fruitless talks with the staffs and referred University of Athens Rector Theodosis Pelegrinis to a disciplinary council for dereliction of duty.

“Discussions with the administrative staff of Athens University will continue only under one condition: that they are back at their desks tomorrow,” Arvanitopoulos said on Dec. 2 as administrative staff announced that they would extend the strike through Dec. 4 after a meeting at the institution’s central Athens premises.

They defied him again and didn’t report to work.  Arvanitopoulos has accused Pelegrinis of contributing to the deadlock which has left 100,000 students on the sidelines watching as the staffs protest a government plan which could see many of them losing their jobs as Greece tries to comply with demands from international lenders to pare the public workforce.

“In contrast to the rectors of the other seven universities that will be affected by the labor mobility scheme, Pelegrinis is keeping the institution closed with his inertia and his inability to enforce the decisions of the council,” Arvanitopoulos said in reference to a decision by the council for a skeleton staff to be put in place to ensure that Athens University could at least open for classes.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, who earlier this year issued civil mobilization orders to force Metro and dock workers back to the job and prevented a strike by public school teachers, has been reluctant to do so for the universities which are packed with political allies of the government of his ruling New Democracy Conservatives and their coalition partner, the PASOK Socialists.

Greek college students are pressured to identify themselves with political parties and the universities are run by politically-oriented groups with class disruptions. The striking staffs at the universities have little incentive to return because they are being paid not to work.

The education minister added that he is exploring the option of extending the academic year into the summer to make up for the 13 weeks that have been lost.

Administrative staff at Athens University and at the National Technical University of Athens (NTUA) are protesting the induction into a civil service streamlining scheme of some 1,300 of their number from various institutions around the country.

Staff at the NTUA will also continue their strike, though classes at that institution have already started.