EI’s European Region, the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) has issued a Statement on Greece. At its meeting on 17 September, the ETUCE Bureau expressed its solidarity with Greek teacher, in relation to their announced general strike on 26 September.
Collapse of Greek Education and Health systems
The statement condemns the fact that “there seems no end to austerity in Greece. After having been bailed out already twice followed by severe austerity measures that have brought education and health services nearly to a collapse , the Greek Government are preparing for another round of cuts and privatisation.”
It also deplores that “the amount invested in public education in Greece has always been among the lowest in Europe. After several cuts in the education budget and cuts in teachers’ salaries, pensions and benefits, schools are now finding themselves in a situation where they can’t even secure heating in winter time. At the same time the Greek public health service has deteriorated leaving elderly and serious ill people in a state of ‘help your-self situation’.“
Greece, an austerity laboratory
It further notes that it has been clear from the outset that the Greek Government must reform the public administration, the budgeting system, the tax system and to take measures that could increase the productivity. However, the statement continues, what we are seeing in Greece is the biggest austerity experiment in European history. In many ways Greece has been turned into an austerity laboratory under control of purely economic interests. There seems no end to how far investors seem ready to go in demands for deregulation of the labour market
ETUCE has several times denounced austerity measures which just lead to a vicious circle of more cuts and austerity. In the present situation in Greece, cuts in the education budget lead to nowhere. Instead, both creditors and the Government should understand that investing in education is one of the ways to get out of the crisis, as well as an important component in insuring a sustainable and socially coherent society.
“ETUCE recognises the need for reform but clearly denounces the policy of austerity that has been enforced on Greece,” says the statement. “In the current situation where many countries in Europe are in crisis there is very little prospect of recovery unless real and coordinated action at the European level are initiated to support growth. In several countries, not only Greece, employers are not lacking cheap labour but a shortage of demand for their products.”
Investing in education crucial to recovery
The statement notes that ETUCE believes that safeguarding and even more investing in education in Greece could add an important help in the already developing social crisis.
“Since austerity seems to have no end in Greece, we call on colleagues’ cooperation to show their solidarity and defiance of the policies that are imposed on Greece, leading to a nearly collapse of the national education and health system,” said ETUCE European Director, Martin Rømer.
All ETUCE and EI affiliates are encouraged to send messages of solidarity and show their opposition and defiance of the policies in Greece by protests to the Greek Government, the Greek Embassies, the President of the European Union and the political groups in the European Parliament.
EI has also developed a campaign website, Education in Crisis, advocating for a strong public investment in education, as cutting public education spending impacts negatively on children in schools now. Under-investment in education undermines the education of future generations, exacerbating social inequality and undoing many of the hard-earned economic, health and social developments of recent decades.
The ETUCE Statement on Greece can be read in its entirety here
Click here to go to the EI’s Education in Crisis website, and look at resources available to make the case for increased investment in quality public education as a crucial response to the economic crisis.