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Athens News Agency: News in English, 06-10-24

Athens News Agency: News in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <>


  • [01] PM meets teacher unions; decision on ending strike by Wednesday

  • [01] PM meets teacher unions; decision on ending strike by Wednesday

    Efforts to end a six-week strike by teachers were on Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis' agenda Tuesday, as the premier himself, accompanied by the education minister, met with their union representatives.

    The government's new proposal calls for payment of a promised monthly benefit to state school teachers in four rather than the original six increments spread over three years, namely, two six-month installments in 2007, followed by one in 2008 and one in 2009. Conversely, union leaders said the premier referred to salary scales in force for civil servants, and with a time-table over five years, in response to teachers' pay demands.

    Karamanlis called the one-and-a-half-hour meeting positive, reiterating that the government holds the work and contribution of teachers in the highest esteem. Nevertheless, he told an 11-member delegation of teachers that the state of the economy does not allow the government more leeway to meet their demands this year.

    &quot;As the prime minister I have responsibility for the economy, and I do not have the right to mortgage the country's future just to become momentarily agreeable I cannot mortgage the efforts of all Greek citizens towards economic reform and development,&quot; Karamanlis said during a brief nationally televised address after his contacts with teachers' representatives.

    The meeting came after repeated calls by the government and Karamanlis for striking teachers to return to their classrooms. The primary school teachers' union, DOE, has demanded, among others, pay hikes of more than 30 percent -- the government puts the figure at more than 40 percent -- for new hirings.

    DOE president Dimitris Bratis, who said the government did not table a &quot;comprehensive proposal&quot; during the meeting, added that regional general assemblies of primary school teachers will convene on Wednesday to decide the future of the ongoing industrial action, while promising to make-up lost class time. On their part, middle and high school teachers will also decide whether to continue their strike as well, called in solidarity to DOE.

    Commenting on the meeting with Karamanlis, the head of the secondary school teachers' union, OLME, Dimitris Georgas said that it had helped change the climate in the education sector and he welcomed the government's plans to increase spending on education with the 5% of GDP target in mind.

    Conversely, Bratis - who has called out his union's members on an extended strike that has now entered its sixth week - insisted on the demands made by primary school teachers, while conceding the problems for the economy and of achieving the 5% of GDP target for education spending.

    DOE's financial demands include immediate payment of the 105 benefit in full and an increase in the starting base salary of newly-appointed teachers - and all others on a lower pay-scale - to 1400 a month net from 950 at present.

    Other issues reportedly discussed during the high-profile meeting included funding for the wider education sector via 3rd and 4th Community Support Framework (CSF) programmes, especially a sum of 3.3 billion euros promised by the government from the latter framework.

    At another point after the meeting on Tuesday, Karamanlis ruled out any change to the minimum pass mark of 10 out of 20 for university entrance examinations, saying that he believed the measure to be correct.

    The minimum pass was established by law before the start of the last academic year and was first applied last summer, leaving several available places in tertiary education unfilled, in Technological Educational Institutes especially, and increasing the number of school leavers that were unable to continue on to further education.

    Its abolition is an almost universal demand among highschool students that have taking over high schools throughout the country in protest, further complicating problems caused by an ongoing teachers' strike.

    Additionally, Karamanlis told educators that the government insists on the need for an evaluation process throughout all education levels, as is the international practice.

    &quot;We want primary and secondary teachers allies in this effort,&quot; Karamanlis said, while adding that he proposed a meeting with teachers' representatives before the beginning of each academic year.

    &quot;I called on educators to follow the path of responsibility vis-à-vis parents and pupils,&quot; he concluded.

    Spokesman on results of meeting

    Questioned about the government's plans if teachers refuse the call to return to classrooms and decide to extend their strike, government spokesman Theodoros Roussopoulos expressed hope that they would &quot;respond to their sense of responsibility&quot; and stressed that the government, via the prime minister, had outlined its intentions and capabilities with full honesty.

    He also underlined that the meeting on Tuesday had been organised in collaboration with the education minister.

    Asked whether the lost teaching hours could be made up and teachers paid for the days they were on strike, the spokesman said that both the government and teachers wanted to make up the lost hours and, should this happen, that teachers would be paid. The technical details would be settled by the education ministry, he added.

    With respect to Karamanlis' offer to teachers to pay a monthly benefit in four rather than six increments, Roussopoulos pointed out that the time-frame for its payment remained the same, with full payment again being made in 2009.

    &quot;The prime minister also made it clear that there could be no change to the offer for 2007, that it would be given as originally planned in two six-month incremental payments,&quot; he added. The rest of the benefit will be raised again by single increment in 2008 and another in 2009, he said.

    Regarding the pledge to increase spending on education to 5% of GDP by the end of its four-year term, Roussopoulos said that this remained among the government's targets but was difficult to achieve by the end of the current four-year term.

    &quot;This government has greatly increased, in absolute figures, the sums directed toward education,&quot; he added.

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