For the third time this year, Greece's coalition government has invoked an emergency law allowing for compulsory civil mobilisation, in order to prevent secondary school teachers from going on strike ahead of important university entrance exams, reported Reuters.
The secondary-school teachers union, OLME, had originally planned to go on a 24-hour strike on May 17, before conducting rolling strikes the week after; but any teacher who now disobeys the civil mobilisation order will face arrest and dismissal.
Education Minister Constantine Arvanitopoulos told reporters that banning the strike was necessary, as students had a "sacred right" to sit exams without disruption.
In a statement, cited by the Eleftherotypia national daily, the government added that there was "an imperative need" to prevent the "threatened negative effects" of the proposed strike, speaking of a "significant risk threatening public order and the exam candidates' health, unexpectedly, seven days before the exams start".
Under Greek law, the government has emergency powers to forcibly mobilise workers in the event of civil disorder, natural disasters or health risks to the public. Since the start of the year, the coalition has utilised the anti-strike legislation twice – once to end a strike by transportation employees and another to order striking seamen back to work.
Greek blog Keep Talking Greece noted that the latest mobilisation order was the first time the state had issued one before a strike had even begun.
According to the Wall Street Journal, OLME organised the strike in response to government plans to increase their workweek by two hours, while transferring 4,000 teachers to remote parts of the country in order to plug staffing gaps. Under the new government plan, the OLME warned, about 10,000 part-time teachers could also be dismissed once their temporary contracts expire.
Over the weekend, the teachers’ union criticised the government for ordering the compulsory civil mobilisation. Besides calling on members to gather in Syntagma Square on Monday evening to voice their objection, it also urged the country's two largest workers groups – ADEDY and GSEE – to join in their protest.
OLME’s union leader Nikos Papachristos, was also ousted from Greece’s New Democracy party as a result from the planned strike.
The opposition Syriza Party called on the government to withdraw the law and open dialogue with the teachers after the exams.