European teacher unions have thrown their weight behind their colleagues in Greece who are battling against cuts in their salaries and pensions.
Education International (EI), which represents teacher unions throughout the world, and the European Trade Union Committee for Education (ETUCE) have signed a declaration expressing "grave concern" about the welfare of teachers and education workers in Greece, and other countries in Europe, as a consequence of the recession.
Ronnie Smith, general secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland who is president of the European committee of EI, said: "In many countries across Europe, teachers and other public-sector workers are expected to bear the brunt of cuts in public spending through a reduction in their salaries, pensions and conditions of employment. This will not solve the economic crisis in Greece or in any other country."
The European declaration calls for measures to address the effects of the crisis on teachers. EI stated: "Any action should acknowledge the principle that those who have historically benefited most from the generation of wealth should pay the most, and these proposals should be negotiated with and accepted by the social partners."
EI and ETUCE will take their case to the European Union to argue against teachers falling victim to the austerity measures being imposed on European countries as part of economic rescue packages.
The EU and International Monetary Fund have approved a EUR110 billion loan package for Greece in return for tough deficit-cutting measures over the next three years. These involve EUR36 billion in tax hikes and the freezing of public-sector wages and pensions during that period.
In addition, the number of people on the public-sector payroll will be reduced to save EUR1 billion in 2010 alone, and public investment will be slashed by EUR500 million this year. "It is an unprecedented support package for an unprecedented effort by the Greek people," Prime Minister George Papandreou told a televised Cabinet meeting.
The unions are demanding European leaders review the conditions attached to the loans to Greece so they do not force through cuts based on "deregulation, liberalisation and privatisation".
John Monks, president of the ETUCE, said: "There was no hesitation about bailing out the banks in 2008. They got what they wanted. There was no doctrine of moral hazard then. Today, all EU countries should approach Greece with respect, not tabloid racism; with sympathy, not scorn; with generosity, not suspicion."