Last week, Greek teachers found out that their services were essential. No news there, of course – as the old poster had it “if you can read this, thank a teacher!” But the language of austerity is becoming more like George Orwell’s “newspeak” by the day. The Greek authorities defined teaching as an “essential service” in order to ban a one-day strike on Friday by the Greek Federation of Secondary Education State School Teachers (OLME).
The Greek Government has invoked these powers already earlier this year to ban a strike by dock workers. International human rights laws and the ILO do allow governments to ban strikes in essential services, but the definition of what’s essential is very narrow – usually only relating to certain functions protecting national security, public safety, public health or morals.
And the Greek Government is increasingly in the dock over taking away people’s fundamental human rights, because it’s the only way to ram through their austerity measures (and, according to one press report, they even get brownie points from ‘the markets’ for taking away workers’ rights.) They’ve been condemned by international union organisations, Amnesty International, and the European Committee of Social Rights, part of the Council of Europe.