Greece: 90% Turn-Out for Teachers’ Strike; 10,000s Join Marches

Teachers show the way! Build for all-out general strike action to defeat new austerity attacks!

Since 16 September OLME (the secondary school teachers’ union) have been on a five day strike, which is intended to be repeated at the weekly general meetings of the teachers, aiming at an indefinite strike by the teachers’ union. This decision was taken by the teachers’ general assemblies by huge majorities, as they have no other way of defending themselves against the attack on public education by the government and the Troika.

Teachers are fighting against (amongst other things):

  • School closures (since 2011, 2500 schools have been closed or merged in primary and secondary education).
  • The abolition of Health Studies and Applied Arts — where tens of thousands of students were studying in public vocational schools — making them available exclusively in private Institutes of Vocational Training etc.
  • Teachers’ “suspensions”, many if not all of which will become dismissals.
  • Compulsory transfers that completely overturn the planning and finances of thousands of families.
  • A new law that turns Lyceums (upper secondary schools) into an examination marathon and which will lead to the increase of students leaving school without a Lyceum certificate.
  • The decrease, by 60%, of functional expenses for schools
  • The teachers must not be on their own in this struggle; the defence of public education concerns all of us. If the example of OLME is followed by other unions and sections of workers, a powerful strike front can be created that will overthrow these policies and the government that is implementing them. If the opposite happens, and the teachers remain alone in this struggle, nobody can be optimistic for its result. History, so far, has proved that one sector alone cannot beat the government and the Troika if it goes into the struggle on its own!

Teachers must not be left to fight on their own!

The administrative staff in the universities are also on repeated strike action (10 days to start with), while a number of university authorities enhance this struggle by closing down universities, initially for a week.

However DOE (the primary school teachers’ union), which is a very important union as it is one of the biggest unions, called only for participation in the 48-hour strike that was called by ADEDY (the public sector union confederation — public sector TUC) and a three hour work stoppage. This is a decision that objectively weakens the struggle’s front and creates disappointment among secondary school teachers.

DOE’s National Executive (NEC) decided in favour of the 48-hour strike despite the fact that 21 out of 36 primary school teachers’ locals had decided at their general assemblies in favour of the repeated 5 day strikes (i.e. amounting to an all-out strike by the sector). It is not a coincidence that on DOE’s NEC, the dominant forces are the union factions of New Democracy [the main party in government] and PASOK [the second party of government] … Nevertheless, depending on the extent to which the secondary school teachers’ strike “holds out”, there is the possibility that the primary school teachers — pressure from “below” — force the NEC to call for more militant strike action, on the lines of the secondary school teachers and the university administrative staff.

The struggle is not only for public education!

Along with OLME, three more unions are on five days continuous strikes; the workers in OAED (Manpower Employment Organisation) in IKA (Social Security Service) and the staff of organisations of government social policy.

Apart from the above, four more unions of workers from EOPYY (National Organisation of Health Services), the Ministry of Labour, the National Insurance Fund (for the self employed) and from tax services decided during the summer to call on ADEDY to coordinate and organise an indefinite general strike.

But as long as ADEDY is controlled by the PASOK and ND union factions, it is naïve to expect that it would ever be possible that they will organise any king of struggle that would end up with an indefinite general strike movement with the aim of the overthrowing the ND/PASOK government’s current policies and the government itself.

Therefore it is necessary that the unions that are now in the forefront of the struggle ‘by-pass’ ADEDY, and immediately move in the direction of repeated five day strikes, along with OLME, expand the strike to more sectors and move to the creation of a ‘common centre’ of struggle which will take on the tasks that ADEDY should carry out: coordination, planning and expansion of the mobilisations in other sectors.

The basic precondition for all the above is for the secondary teachers to ‘hold out’, and therefore to give time to more sectors to join the struggle. It is not easy, but there is no other way.

It is of high importance that this struggle is connected with the struggle of ERT [national broadcaster, closed down last summer,] workers. ERT, which is still under workers’ occupation and management, can become the voice of the strike movement.

Workers in the Municipalities, Public Health, Hellenic Vehicle Industry, in the water supply services, the railways etc — Now is the time!

Local municipality workers were among the first to find themselves in the centre of the government’s and Troika’s attacks (and they still are!).

If there is no stop to this storm of ‘Memoranda’ [cuts] school care takers and municipal guards will be followed by thousands more workers, including the key section of the refuse collectors, which due to be handed over to big private capital (the impact of waste management run by ‘national’ mega-contractors will be disastrous for both our pockets, as well as for the environment).

The leaderships of the Union of Local Council Workers do not seem, so far, to be willing to move into a common front with other unions in an attempt to organise aand coordinate more, indefinite strike action of many sectors, in the direction of an indefinite general strike.

Pressure from the rank and file needs to be increased and all the union branches that can, must immediately decide to strike along with OLME — this is the most essential form of pressure.

Public health workers must immediately go into this common strike, fighting against the Memoranda that require that out of 140 hospitals, only 80 should remain open, and that the current 80,000 workforce must be cut to 40,000 by 2015.

The government is scared of the possibility of having to face a broad indefinite strike front and is therefore making various promises and reassuring words to the “endangered” sectors. Up until now, the government ‘promised’ via various members of the Cabinet, that no primary or secondary school teacher, tax worker or public health worker will be sacked. But these are obvious lies, with the aim of breaking the movement and gaining time for the coalition government.

Greek Vehicle Industry, Water Supply, railway and all the utility company workers — who are about to be privatised or closed down — also need to join strike action.

And of course this struggle needs to be supported by the workers in the private sector, the unemployed and the pensioners, by the whole of society, to turn it into an all-out general strike — the only means that we have left to avert the disaster facing working people and to overthrow those that are causing it.

All-out general strike!

Indefinite strike is the strongest weapon that the workers’ movement has against its tyrants.

If this weapon is used “lightly”, without plan and adequate preparation and campaign in the various work places it can fire-back in the hands of those that are holding it. If it used correctly, i.e. if the indefinite strike has massive participation, determination, expands into many sectors and especially is it escalates to an indefinite general strike it can overthrow not only the policies applied but also the government itself.

The leaderships of the GSEE (Greek TUC) and ADEDY (public sector TUC) will not take up the initiative for an indefinite general strike. But, an indefinite general strike can be imposed from below, with the full knowledge that even if the central trade union leaderships are pushed into adopting this proposal, they will do so in order to sabotage it and to lead it to a dead-end and to its defeat. This is why control of the struggle needs to be passed to the hands of the mass movement; with regular general assemblies in every workplace; with democratically elected (and recallable) strike committees (which will control and where needed, replace union NECs); with stewarding teams, with “communication” teams that will answer the mud-slinging of the big TV channel owners and big press publishers that support the government and the Troika, and with a central ‘Coordinating Body of Struggle’, that will not allow the trade union leaderships to abrogate the interests of the movement.

(Translations by Amalia Loizidou and Eleni Vetsika)

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