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Tens of thousands march through Athens to protest education reforms

Tens of thousands march through Athens to protest education reforms

Tens of thousands of striking teachers, joined by students and civil servants, demonstrated in central Athens on Thursday in a sign of increasing social and political tension ahead of municipal elections in 10 days' time.
The country's main civil servants' union held a 24-hour strike and the union of bank employees a four-hour stoppage in support of primary and kindergarten teachers, who are now into their third week of strikes and already preparing for a fourth.
They are demanding more financial resources for the educational sector, including a 45 percent rise in starting salaries, and the cancellation of a series of education reforms the government has proposed, including opening the country to private universities and reducing the time limit for students to qualify for their degrees.
High school teachers also closed their schoolrooms Thursday, following their 48-hour strike Monday and Tuesday, and have called another strike for early next week. The country's largest labor union also joined the march, as did dozens of police officers.
The police participation in the demonstration quelled tensions that rose after a riot policeman was photographed wearing brass knuckles on Monday during a confrontation with striking teachers.
The demonstration, which coincided with World Teachers' Day, was the latest in a series of marches in recent weeks by teachers and sympathizing workers and students. Several previous ones resulted in tear gas being fired to disperse marchers.
An election booth by a far-right party was burned during Thursday's demonstration, but no other incidents were reported and the march ended peacefully with a concert.
Demonstrators held aloft banners reading "a poor teacher means uneducated people" and similar slogans.
Major access roads in the capital were closed to vehicles for several hours, while Athens trolley bus drivers walked off the job for four hours to attend their union's meeting.
Teachers also demonstrated in the northern city of Thessaloniki.
The conservative government, which earlier this week unveiled an austerity budget for 2007 and remains under budgetary supervision by the European Union, has rejected the teachers' economic demands as jeopardizing the country's economic future.
Greece's opposition parties have used the strikes as occasion to criticize the governing party in the run-up to local elections on October 15.
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Associated Press writer Nicholas Paphitis in Athens contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-04-14 23:23 GMT+08:00