MORE THAN 6,500 Greek academics will receive pay increases of up to 35 per cent from the new year if a bill belatedly submitted to parliament by education secretary Gerasimos Arsenis becomes law as expected.
The bill, which regulates the status of academics as well as their conditions of employment, has attracted severe criticism for failing to tackle a number of fundamental problems that plague post-school education, such as low pay, absentee professors and lack of incentives for those appointed to provincial universities.
In a spectacular about-turn, Mr Arsenis appears to have reneged on almost all the promises he had previously given to representative bodies of the academic community, causing disappointment, resentment and deep division in their ranks.
Despite the government's declared economic policy and Mr Arsenis's frequent announcements, the proposed increases will not be on basic salary but will be paid in the form of a series of supplements: library, preparation for lectures, attendance at congresses, and so on.
The increases will not be paid retrospectively from the beginning of 1997 as was widely expected, but from January 1998. A supplement paid to academics at provincial universities will be abolished, amounting to a reduction in their salaries.
The bill will oblige academics to declare if they wish to be full or part-time. Full-timers will receive the proposed increases while those who elect to be employed part-time will receive one-third of the equivalent salary of full-timers on the same grade.
Full-time academics will not be prevented from holding advisory sinecures or accepting similar roles in the wider public sector. But the proviso that they should return 30 per cent of their earnings to their institution is thought to be unworkable.
Chancellors, vice chancellors and deans will not be able to carry out activities outside the university, but Mr Arsenis has failed to satisfy the profession's long-term demand to suspend the academic status of those who accept part-time appointments in universities in order to carry out lucrative activities in the free labour market.
Mr Arsenis defended his decision by claiming he did not wish to "punish those excellent members of the professions who wished to teach", but Gerasimos Spathis, president of the Academics' Federation, claimed that "professors will now trade their titles in the open market to the highest bidder".
As a protest against the bill, academics have refused to suspend industrial action and start marking examination papers.