ATHENS – Unrelenting Greek teachers marched through the downtown of Greece’s capital on Jan. 26, keeping up their demonstrations against the ruling Radical Left SYRIZA’s plans to reform public sector hirings even though it would lead to 15,000 more teachers being hired.
That’s despite there being such a glut as Greek universities keep turning out teachers for whom there are no positions – with 150,000 on a waiting list – that it could take 20 years for them to find a permanent position in the schools if they want to wait that long.
A total of 17,320 students entered Greece’s some 100 schools of education in the current academic year, a figure close to the annual average of 17,000, said Kathimerini, although Education Minister Costas Gavroglou said the government would appoint 15,000 over the next three years to spots that don’t exist as critics said Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras is handing out jobs to win votes in an election year with polls showing he’s going to lose to New Democracy after reneging on anti-austerity promises for four years.
Protesting teachers said the new hiring scheme is unfairly weighted against those with years of experience with no indication whether the jobs will go to SYRIZA supporters. The country’s umbrella union representing civil servants, ADEDY, held a 24-hour walkout to express solidarity with teachers objecting to the new hiring system.
Some of the rallies in recent weeks have turned violent, with teachers clashing with riot police.
Hundreds of striking Greek public workers, mostly teachers, marched through the capital’s center Jan. 17 keeping up their demands for more hirings of teachers on short-term contracts who want permanent, life-time jobs.
Teachers held two protest marches in Athens over the past week over the hiring plan that were both marred by clashes between some demonstrators and riot police who used tear gas to disperse state schoolteachers protesting violently in Athens, days after the country’s public order minister accused officers of indiscriminately attacking teachers in similar circumstances.
The violence came during a protest by about 2,000 teachers Jan. 14 against the government’s process for hiring new staff in state schools. Police used tear gas and stun grenades to disperse dozens of protesters who tried to break through a police cordon, attacking officers with sticks and stones.
Experts say the huge backlog has a negative effect on the quality of university training and working conditions for graduates. Speaking to Kathimerini, the head of the Panhellenic Union of Philologists, Tasoula Karageorgiou, deplored what she described as the “proletarization” of newly- graduated teachers, a Marxist tactic.
(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)