Strikes at Universities in Greece

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Strikes at Universities in Greece

The following email was sent to the mailing list of the Edu-Factory collective on September 21st 2012:

During the past weeks there has been a wave of faculty strikes in Greek Universities. These are the reasons for the protests:

- The Greek government, as part of the latest austerity package dictated by the ‘Troika’ (European Union – International Monetary Fund – European Central Bank) has announced new extreme wage cuts. For faculty members these reductions will reach 35%, on top of reductions that have already been implemented in the past years. This will mean university lecturers getting less than 950 euros per month and professors less than 1900 (after 35 years of service)

- As part of the same austerity package there’s going to be new extra cuts on university budgets (excluding faculty and administrative pay, that comes directly from the ministry, budgets are already reduced by 60-70%) and a complete elimination of funding for adjunct faculty (it is already down by 65%) in universities and drastic cuts in Technical Higher Education Institutions, leading to the mass lay-offs of hundreds of adjunct lecturers and instructors. At the same time more than 700 elected faculty members wait for their appointment, with the government insisting that their appointment will take 7-8 years because of a Troika imposed freeze on new public sector hiring.

- The Greek government insists on implementing a neoliberal reform of Higher Education management (Laws 4009/11 and 4076/12) that will introduce oligarchic ‘University boards’ with representatives of the ‘business world’, reducing significantly the role of Senates and Department assemblies, turn rectors into university managements, eliminate student participation, impose tuition fees on graduate programs, eliminate the gratis provision of textbooks, undermine the autonomy of departments as the main academic units and – above all – be a decisive step in the attempt to impose “Bologna process” course and degree structures. This legislation was first introduced in August 2011 but a wave of protests, occupations and collective disobedience led to the postponement of most ‘university board’ elections.

- The Greek government has announced a plan for a ‘spatial restructuring’ of Higher Education meaning the closure of many university departments and schools and the shrinkage of Higher Education and reversing a historical trend towards the expansion of Higher Education.

All these have caused anger and despair among academics and students. Greece is already experiencing a ‘brain-drain’ through mass migration of young researchers. Even the openly pro-government POSDEP, the federation of university professors and lecturers, has called for strike action, albeit only against wage cuts, since it openly supports neoliberal reforms. However, the decisions for strike action in most University union assemblies oppose not only wage cuts but also budget cuts and the new neoliberal legislation and call for a common front of struggle with students and administrative / technical staff. The General Strike on September 26 offers an opportunity for the University Movement to meet in struggle with the rest of the labour movement.

Panagiotis Sotiris
Adjunct Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of the Aegean,
vice president of the Union of professors and lecturers of the University of the Aegean