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Tsipras takes part in the union protest

18 September 2013 / 17:09:16  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

Over 10,000 people in Athens protested against the mobility programme and the upcoming layoffs in the public sector. Primary and secondary school teachers, doctors and employees in insurance funds had gathered in the area of the University on Stadiou Street. The organizers had built a platform on Korai Square from which the trade union leaders delivered their angry speeches against the government’s policy. In their words, it aims to destroy the educational system, the health and social security funds and to "transfer them to the private sector".

Teachers with colourful letters in their hands, spelling the word "strike" in Greek and English, were leading the protest. While their counterparts in primary schools are on strike only on Wednesday and Thursday within the context of the strike announced by the trade union of public sector employees, high school teachers started five-day repeated strikes on Monday.

A group of students behind them was shouting slogans in support of their teachers’ strike. Some schools are already in a state of "occupation". According to commentators, the teachers themselves are encouraging the students to take such actions because they will get their salaries despite the strike in this way.

Slightly behind them, their colleagues were holding colourful figures of people and a three-headed dragon in the form of a TV next to them, thus expressing their dissatisfaction with the media, which "are distorting the truth and pushing through the government's slander that the participation in the strike is low."

According to their trade union organization OLME, 75% of teachers support the strike and they are not entering the classrooms. According to the Ministry of Education, however, the percentage of the strikers is below 45%. Accordingly, the federation of primary school teachers has announced that 80% of them will be on strike today and tomorrow.

The leader of the main opposition party, the radical left SYRIZA, surrounded by party members and supporters of the party, joined the protesters shortly before the procession reached Syntagma Square. In his statement, Alexis Tsipras supported the protesters and referred to the murder of the 34-year-old leftist activist and rap singer. "I want to express my sorrow for the sad event of last night which took place in a popular district of Piraeus and for the unjust loss of a young man. Unfortunately today, we cannot talk about the large protest of teachers, 90% of whom are on strike, protesting against the measures for the destruction of schools. Today we are talking about something more shocking. I fear that we are facing a plan of destabilization and disorientation orchestrated by right-wing centres and the neo-Nazi gang called Golden Dawn."

Alexis Tsipras walked along with the protesters the distance from the bottom of the square to its top and then entered the parliament building from the entrance on the side of Syntagma. The first lines of the procession stayed outside the parliament for about half an hour and the speakers informed of the high participation in the strike and that the procession itself was several kilometres long.

Then some of the protesters moved to the regular entrance of the parliament which police buses had blocked. A group of youths came along with them who had violently attacked the riot forces with offensive or obscene words and gestures and threw water bottles and tomatoes at them. Their words made it clear that the murder of the rap singer in Keratsini had provoked their anger.

The clashes did not last long, since some of the protesting teachers and employees of the insurance funds had intervened and had pulled back the angry youths. After about an hour, everyone had withdrawn and the protesters went home a little later.

Tags: SocietyStrikeProtestPublic sectorAlexis Tsipras
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