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Tuesday 14 May 2013

Update on the teachers' strike and civil mobilization - 14 May 2013

"They told me to wear the uniform"
A teacher protests in front of parliament on 13 May in Syntagma square
Picture by @MakisSinodinos
By @IrateGreek 

Greek secondary education teachers, together with various groups who joined them in solidarity, held a demonstration yesterday in front of parliament to protest the government's decision to issue preemptively a civil mobilization order for 86,000 teachers in order to prevent a possible strike on the first day of the national university entry exams, as proposed by the Federation of Secondary Education Teachers (OLME). The Council of State, Greece's highest administrative court, rejected yesterday a request by OLME for temporary suspension of the civil mobilization order, despite the dubious legality and constitutionality of back-to-work legislation issued before a formal decision to go on strike is officially approved by regional unions.

Teachers are the third professional group, after employees of the Athens metro and sailors, to be hit by a civil mobilization order since the current coalition government was elected to power. Trucking contractors and municipal workers's strikes were also broken in this way in 2010 and 2011. Of a total of 11 civil mobilization orders issued in Greece since the fall of the Junta, 5 were issued in the framework of bailout austerity policies.

Picture by @Polyfimos
There were abundant references to the Junta in yesterday's demonstration to protest the government's authoritarian management of labour issues. Teachers dressed in military fatigues brought a mock tank and held a banner with the phoenix, the symbol of the Regime of the Colonels, reading "Greece for mobilized Greeks", a parody of the far-right slogan "Greece for Christian Greeks."  Demonstrations against civil mobilization were also held in Thessaloniki, Patra, Pyrgos, Tripoli, Larissa, Corinth, Nafplio, Xanthi, Kavala, Kefallonia, Kozani, Messologgi, Zakynthos, Heraklion, Ioannina, Chania and Kalamata.

Picture by @Polyfimos
The civil mobilization order was widely condemned by opposition parties and labour unions as well as specific groups, such as the Piraeus dock workers, the Movement for Democracy and Human Rights and the Union of Editors of Magazines and Electronic Media, but also by parents' associations and even pupils. Various groups joined the demonstration, among them municipal workers  wearing badges that read: "Today it's just me, tomorrow it'll be everyone." The union affiliated with the Communist Party, PAME, joined the protest en masse despite the fact that its representatives on the board of OLME had voted against the proposal to strike. The umbrella union of civil servants, ADEDY, announced a strike and a rally in Athens today 14 May.

Despite these statements of solidarity, there are substantive disagreements between unions regarding how to best support the teachers' right to strike. The head of OLME, Nikos Papachristos, condemned in no unequivocal terms ADEDY's decision to go on strike today instead of Friday, as requested by the teachers, calling ADEDY's decision "a farce". Teachers decided not to participate in today's strike of civil servants, leading in turn PAME to condemn OLME's decision as "strike-breaking." While divisiveness has been a feature of Greek labour for decades, the barbs of criticism traded between union representatives since yesterday seem to have taken it to another level of intensity.

Update 14:20 EEST: @O_Kanalarhis reports that the police are distributing mobilization orders even in classrooms and in schools where teachers are holding general assemblies to vote on OLME's proposal to strike. This picture of a mobilization order taken by @Polyfimos during yesterday's rally in Syntagma square states that it comes in effect on 15 May and is open-ended. In other words, the teachers' right to strike has been revoked until further notice.


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