ATHENS Greek teachers will kick off the school year with rolling strikes to protest public sector layoffs and forced transfers demanded by the country's international lenders, labor unions said on Monday.
The school year begins on Wednesday, and the government must designate thousands of public sector workers for possible dismissal to convince its borrowers arriving for an inspection visit on September 22 it deserves further bailout funding.
But efforts to put state workers in a so-called "mobility scheme" to reform the public sector have met fierce resistance from labor unions, which say any firings or transfers will further hurt austerity-hit families.
High school teachers' labor union OLME announced on Monday plans for five-day rolling strikes from September 16.
"Education is under attack," OLME said in a statement calling students and their parents to join the protests against school mergers, job cuts and transfers. "We can and we will topple these policies."
High-school teachers have repeatedly walked off the job to protest the government's plans. The conservative-led coalition invoked emergency powers in May to mobilize teachers and prevent a strike that would have disrupted university entry exams.
OLME is expected to join a 48-hour strike on Sept 18-19 called by Greece's largest public sector union ADEDY.
Athens must put a total 25,000 workers in the mobility scheme by the end of the year, and they will be evaluated and transferred to other jobs or dismissed. It must also meet a target of 15,000 mandatory exits in 2013-2014.
Firing workers is a taboo in the crisis-hit country where unemployment has jumped over 27 percent and poverty levels have soared amid a six-year recession.
But foreign lenders have warned that the billions of euros in aid payments that Greece needs to stay afloat cannot continue unless it pushes forward with reforming a corruption-prone state apparatus where hiring is often made for political patronage.
(Reporting by Renee Maltezou; Editing by Alison Williams and Cynthia Osterman)