Greek teachers and anti-fascist protestors take to the streets


In perhaps the biggest blow to Greece’s frail coalition government, this week the country braced itself for several protests and strikes from a number of sectors, demonstrating against a new wave of austerity measures.

A week of planned strikes kicked off on Monday with the teachers’ unions taking to the streets in order to protest against public sector layoffs and forced transfers.

The teachers, who are expected to strike all week as part of a plan for a five-day rolling strike, were joined by government workers from the labour and social security offices who are also fiercely opposing the government’s redeployment scheme.

On Monday, riot police used tear gas to disperse school security staff protesting in Athens outside the Administrative Reform Ministry where further cuts were being discussed under the bailout terms imposed by the ‘troika’ of the European Commission (EC), European Central Bank (ECB) and International Monetary Fund (IMF).

The strikes began a day before Prime Minister Antonis Samaras of the conservative New Democracy party travelled to Brussels for talks with EU officials.

Greece must place thousands of state workers in a mobility scheme by the end of the month, where they will be evaluated and transferred to other jobs or dismissed.

This is part of the government’s plan to shrink and overhaul the state sector in order to satisfy the demands placed by the country’s international creditors for further bailout funding.

Education Minister Konstantinos Arvanitopoulos said reform in the sector would save taxpayers millions of euros but the scheme has met fierce resistance from labour unions.

Savas Savas, president of secondary education union ELME’s Piraeus branch, said the government wanted "to end permanent jobs for public servants", and added the reforms "will lead to unemployment."


“Troika, leave our country”

Joining secondary school teachers yesterday, Greek workers, led by their labour unions, began a two-day general strike against austerity measures and the coming involuntary transfer and firing of scores of thousands of municipal employees.

“The only thing we demand and fight for is that the troika leaves our country, that the government, the European Union and the IMF, who for four years have imposed these policies that have impoverished Greek society, also leave,” said Grigoris Kalomiris, a teacher and representative of the civil servants’ union ADEDY.

State hospital doctors also started a three-day strike on Monday, while lawyers and rubbish collectors have walked off the job for two days.

On Wednesday, teachers at the country’s Technological Educational Institutes (TEI) staged a 24-hour strike while universities failed to open for the new term last week as administrators also launched an all-out strike with support from students and lecturers.

The walkouts are the first widespread strike action after the summer and aim to put pressure on the coalition government to repeal unpopular austerity measures.

Officials have vowed not to back down and hundreds of previous strikes, protests and riots against pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions have all failed to stop the government from imposing more harsh conditions.

It is the first time under the Greek constitution that public sector workers will lose their jobs and workers say older, more vulnerable staff will be targeted, adding to record unemployment of almost 28 per cent.

But the government insists it must reform a public sector that has grown too large.

Prime Minister Samaras claims the deficit will soon be wiped out and his country could be back to pre-crisis levels in six years.

Greece has seen nearly 30 general strikes since the bailouts began.

But this latest round of workers’ struggles is being compared to the strike wave of October 2011 that brought down the socialist Pasok’s government, led by former Prime Minister Georgios Papandreou.



Meanwhile as the crisis-hit country was brought to a standstill, 34-year-old left-wing activist and hip-hop artist Pavlos Fyssas was stabbed to death on Wednesday night by a supporter of the country’s neo-nazi party Golden Dawn, in a suburb of Athens.

The attack follows clashes last week between Golden Dawn supporters and Communist party members, which left nine members of the communist party KKE, in hospital, seriously injured.

Greek police raided the offices of Golden Dawn after the stabbing and have arrested a 45-year old man in connection to the crime who has admitted to being a party member.

As a result, thousands of protesters marched yesterday evening against fascism in Greece’s major cities.

Golden Dawn has been accused of escalating violence towards left-wing activists, immigrants and members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community, and Golden Dawn members have been charged with several brutal attacks in the past year.