The world is a global village. And though Los Angeles and Greece are far removed as far as education and facilities are concerned, the teachers union of Greece was moved by the plight of teachers in LA and their efforts to upgrade facilities and demand better pay.
The United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA) union received a solidarity statement from striking Greek teachers.
Tithi Bhattacharya, national organiser of the International Women’s Strike released the letter:
We send you solidarity greetings from Greece.
Since December, thousands of teachers in Greece have been striking and demonstrating against a proposed government bill that will regulate the way that teachers — both permanent and substitute ones — will be appointed.
2010 was the last time permanent teachers were hired in Greece. Since then all vacancies in our schools have covered by substitute teachers, hired with the maximum of a nine-month contract. Currently, we have 30,000 substitute teachers working in our schools, mostly women, with the vast majority of them constantly moving from school to school with no sense of stability or continuity.
For the last three years the Syriza–ANEL government has been promising to create permanent teaching appointments. Nothing has been done yet. Instead, now, they are passing a bill, which in the name of defining the way that teachers will be appointed, means that thousands of our substitute teachers will be fired, since the bill has raised the bar for teaching qualifications. Those not fired will be forced to work hundreds of miles away from their homes and families, because they won’t have the required “points” needed in order to work where they have been teaching for many years. The bill requires teachers to have postgraduate diplomas and other comparable qualifications — it costs thousands of euros to acquire these. In effect, the government is calling on teachers to fiercely compete with each other in order to find a teaching position.
This bill has caused the real anger among teachers. This anger has been aggravated by years of austerity policies which have all but dismantled public education in Greece. On December 11 and December 14, a strike was called by the teachers unions, demanding the withdrawal of the bill and the permanent appointment of all substitute teachers. The government believed that because the bill was actually announced during the Christmas holidays, the educational movement would not have the time to prepare the strike. They were wrong. Thousands of teachers all around Greece closed their schools and demonstrated against the bill. The demonstrations in Athens were some of the largest and most militant in years. The Syriza government ordered a massive police force to break up the demonstrations resulting in serious injuries for teachers, most of them women.
It is necessary to point out that the leaderships of the national teachers’ unions were obliged to call a strike under the pressure of the grassroots movement. Many local unions and substitute teachers’ collectives occupied the Deanery of the University in the Centre of Athens in order to use it as the “headquarters” for our movement. We have been organising various activities and we are calling the students and all the working people to support and join the teachers’ movement.
We have been watching since last year the impressive mass movement of educators in the US and see that Los Angeles teachers are currently on strike. We express our solidarity to your movement and we are certain of your victory! We know that the attack on public education and teachers is common to both our countries! We also know that only a militant, persistent movement will finally win!
Substitute teachers, local teachers unions, and students from the occupied Deanery of the University in the Centre of Athens.