By Evie Andreou and Angelos Anastasiou
State primary-school teachers’ union Poed announced on Friday a series of one-period strikes islandwide every Wednesday morning, meaning those in one district at a time will all start a period later.
Following a board meeting, the union announced that its members would go on five work stoppages between 7.30am and 8.30am, beginning on Wednesday October 26 in Limassol. The dates for the remaining strikes in the other districts will be announced at a later stage, Poed said.
The board announced that the decision followed an assessment of the serious problems primary schools face. As part of the strike measures, it said, issues will be highlighted related to pre-schools, special education, illiteracy, children whose Greek is not their mother tongue, and juvenile delinquency, where increasing problems are recorded for which there are no solutions as the ministry “refuses to provide any”.
Poed’s key demand however is for annual – 12-month – contracts to be given to term-teachers, instead of 10-month ones, as per a cabinet decision aiming to tackle staff shortages in schools.
The union is also protesting the government’s ignoring of its ultimatum, according to which it refuses to negotiate with Education Minister Costas Kadis any more, demanding that the issue be moved up to presidential level.
Poed also said that its board decided to hold a protest in the form of interruption of classes and said it had already invited parents for a meeting as soon as possible.
Another protest is to take place on November 3 at 3pm whereby Poed members will march from the finance ministry to the presidential palace.
Poed also decided to report the “official side for its unilateral and unacceptable action” to diversify the employment status of teachers, to international bodies; the International Labour Organisation, Unesco, and international and European teacher organisations.
It also rejects the introduction of any innovations or educational programmes, “which the ministry will not prove that it is willing and capable to support”.
Poed also urged its members to stop providing information to the education ministry through the electronic intranet platform SEP as regards leaves, but also on security, health and civil defence issues in schools.
Speaking on state radio on Friday morning, Kadis said Poed’s stance was suspiciously inconsistent.
“Before the summer, Poed made decisions on issues relating to the day-to-day operation of schools, like delinquency, illiteracy, and other administrative issues, for which we assured that we would take adequate measures,” the minister said.
“Everything we agreed was implemented at the start of this academic year. But then they remembered staffing”.
The year started well, with minor and manageable issues, Kadis said.
“When we brought Poed delegates to the ministry, in the presence of parents, and asked them to inform us of problems, no one had anything to say,” he said.
“Now they remembered the terms of employment, which were decided at cabinet level.”
Kadis warned that should Poed continue to refuse to engage in dialogue with the ministry, the reform effort will continue without it.
“If they don’t want to participate in the dialogue for major education reform, we will not force them to the table,” the minister said.
“In the coming days we will present the new plan for teacher evaluations.”
“The public wants it, and teachers want it, and we will discuss it with those who want to discuss it with us. If Poed does not want to be part of the dialogue, we will not force it to be.”
Following the announcement on the strike measures, the education ministry said that Poed continues to create confusion in the education sector for no good reason despite its and organised parents’ pleas.
“Except from the strike measures, Poed decided to obstruct the implementation of reforms, by undermining the effort for the modernisation of our educational system,” the ministry said.
It added that with its decisions, Poed deprives the opportunity for the professional development of teachers, and the promotion of higher level education to children.
“Poed is now accountable to parents, students, teachers and society at large,” the ministry said.