ATHENS, GREECE (MAY 13, 2013) (REUTERS) - Thousands of Greek public high school teachers and their supporters staged a protest rally in Athens on Monday (May 13) after the government said the teachers face arrest if they proceed with a planned strike this week.
The high school teachers are planning to strike during university entrance exams on Friday (May 17), which would disrupt and delay the process for students. The government plans to invoke emergency legislation that forces strikers to return to work or face arrest if they disobey the order.
The move has angered teachers, unions and other protest groups.
During the demonstration some of the teachers were dressed as soldiers and had taped their mouths shut, implying that with the mobilisation order the government was acting as a military dictatorship. They also paraded a mock model of a military tank made of styrofoam which they parked in front of the parliament building.
The teachers are protesting plans by the government to extend their working hours by an extra two hours a week, and to transfer 4,000 teachers around Greece in order to plug staffing holes. The teachers say they already spend several hours of overtime at work, and transfers to other parts of the country will split families.
The emergency legislation has already been used twice by the 11-month old government, public transport workers and ferry boat crews were also given the same orders during their attempted walkouts.
The law can be used if a strike is considered a threat to the national public interest. Government officials said it was the students' right to sit their exams without disruption.
The legislation is rarely utilised but the administration has said it will adopt a zero tolerance attitude towards disruptive strikes as it tackles to improve the dire economic situation through spending cuts and other austerity measures.