To strike or not to strike

"All in the streets"

“All in the streets”

I was surfing on a mom’s site, a website for mothers. You know the ones with tearful stories about little ones and their first words, steps and falls. Between these stories one was far different. The title was “Strike and imprisonment or inaction and falling in value?” She is a public teacher. Nine months ago it was assigned to her a place to teach in the countryside. So for nine months already, she is been living with her 2 years old daughter without her husband, teaching in 3 different schools somewhere in the Greek countryside. And Anna writes: “I just hung up with my husband who informed me that I am officially requisitioned. I want to do the right thing, I want to do what I want to see in my pupils eyes when I step in the class, but I am scared. I want to go on strike but the paper writes 3 months of imprisonment. And after that, the dismissal will come, but to this fear I’m already used to. Imprisonment is a new one. I want to do the right thing without fear.” The comments that followed the article where divergent. Half of women were writing “go fight for all of us and our children” and the other half “you are working in the public sector deserve no better. I work on the private sector and I cannot complain. Greece is suffering from all of you, so how dare you talk”.

This is the situation in Greece actually. It’s a country divided in two. The private sector against the public sector. The political parties that form the government and support the Μνημόνιο, memorandum that Greece had signed with EU, (http://www.tovima.gr/files/1/2012/02/10/mnhmonioagglika.pdf) against the opposition who fights it. The euro lobby against the drachma lobby. The Nazi party against all immigrants. And, of course, the left side of the political system fighting itself.

Let’s see what happened with the teachers. During the Orthodox Easter holidays (three weeks ago) the government decided to pass new regulations, such as the increase of the working hours and involuntary staff transfers of teachers. The timing was everything. Not only, during holidays ,the schools were closed, but also the 16th of May was the starting date of the final exams for high schools students and the results of these is defining the student’s admission to universities. For this reason, the students and their parents are spending a lot of time and money to guarantee the success in these exams. So the teachers could not go on strike without having against them the majority of the Greek population. But despite the prediction and the government, the teachers decided to go on strike during the exams. And despite what it seemed obvious at first, the majority of the people where not against them. At least at the beginning.

“My husband is a teacher. His salary is 956 euro per month and he is also giving private lessons. We have a house loan and I also have to work. So we have to pay daily care for our daughter. If he is moved away from home we will be financially destroyed. He will not be able to work extra time and we will have also to support his house”, quotes Ioanna.

But the government had other plans. Voices like this one should not be heard. And here comes the media. The television was full of parents, journalist and politicians repeating that a strike during the exams will destroy the life of the children. And repeating and repeating. But still it was not enough. Some changed their minds but the resistance was still bigger.

“My name is Konstantinos Manikas and I am 1st grade student in the high school of Drapetsona. With this I want to express outrage and indignation for the hypocrisy of those who govern us,and to all these journalists and media,that help to enforce the poaching and immoral plans that are detrimental for us students and for the new generation. Because of the strike of the professors, during my examination period, politicians and journalists pretend to worry about my future with their crocodile tears.What do you say? Which future I have-because of you- and by whom it is really put in danger? Let’s see, who formed my future.Who made the future of my grandfather,sending him as an immigrant in Germany? Who mismanaged the country and is still ripping it? Who is forcing my mother to work from morning till evening for 530euro? … Two words I want to say to my teachers. Teachers, for all the students, you are obliged NOT TO STEP BACK.” (http://www.koutipandoras.gr/36790/ο-κωνσταντίνος-μανίκας-στο-koutipandoras-gr.html)

Voices like this one from students and parents kept on showing up in the blogs and social media. So it was time for the next step. It was for the third time, during this year, that the conservative-lead coalition government used the emergency civil mobilization order. So from Monday, police men were visiting the teachers’ houses giving them the requisitioning paper. If they would keep on striking they would be imprisoned. Amnesty International said that the order violates the country’s international human rights obligations. Note also that this is a measure normally reserved for natural disasters and other times of national crisis.

Once again that wasn’t enough. Teachers were meeting each other and burning together their papers in front of TV cameras. It was time for the final measure. Treachery.

The country’s main unions refused to agree to OLME’s (Ομοσπονδία Λειτουργών Μέσης Εκπαίδευσης, Greek Federations of Secondary State School Teachers that counts 88,000-member)request to hold a general strike on Friday to support the teacher’s action. But the teachers had made their decision. The strike was beginning and it would continue during the exams (the original proposal to strike through the exam had collected 92%). The final meeting of the representatives of the ELME (Ένωση Λειτουργών Μέσης Εκπαίδευσης, Secondary School Teachers Unions) was going to decide on how to proceed.

 4

On Thursday morning, 16th of May, once the marathon meeting was finished, they announced the strike was cancelled. OLME had raised questions whether there where the right conditions to strike. They seemed worried for the lack of support combined with rifts within labour unions. So they forgot that they represent the 92% of the teachers and the called off the strike.

Chrisanthi Kotsafti

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