The House education committee on Friday postponed for two weeks discussion of a bill on the new teacher appointment system after Attorney-general Costas Clerides withdrew an appeal he had filed over a court decision recognising the right for contract teachers who have worked in state schools for more than 30 months to obtain open-ended contracts.
The court decision has prompted 350 teachers to demand open-ended contracts from the education ministry, and Clerides withdrew his appeal after Education Minister Costas Kadis intervened on the grounds that more consultation is needed.
State legal services had appealed the decision, but withdrew the appeal because of warnings from primary education teachers’ union Poed that the state needs to sort out the labour issues surrounding contract teachers before introducing a new, merit-based appointment system, or risk chaos.
The government, the union said, will either have to compensate those who will be awarded open-ended contracts, or fire some of those who will be appointed through the new system.
The head of the House education committee Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis said that a vote on the new appointment system regulations is imperative soon as a delay will be disruptive to exams scheduled to take place between September and December. Under a law passed last year, from September 2018 until August 31, 2027, 50 per cent of appointments will be made from waiting lists and 50 per cent according to the new system. From September 2027, onward all appointments will be made based on merit.
The new system will take into consideration each candidate’s exam results, their university degree grade, additional academic qualifications and teaching experience.
Akel MP Giorgos Loukaides – whose party does not favour the new appointment system – said he welcomed the postponement as it will give the committee time to discuss the new development with Kadis.
The postponement, Loukaides said, will give the minister time to “materialise his promises”.
He also said that Kadis “kept his promise and had the appeal withdrawn”, and called for amendments to be made to the bill.
The head of Poed, Filios Phylaktou, welcomed the postponement, but said that the union will not rest until all teachers with more than 30-months’ service are given open-ended contracts.
The new appointment system, he said, “was built on a completely wrong, irregular and unfair basis” as regards the recognition of the right of contract teachers to be given open-ended contracts as is the case in other European Union states.
Teachers demanding open-ended contracts do not have a right to permanent appointment, but as long as there are positions for contract teachers, the state cannot fire them. Contract teachers have the right to claim a permanent post as long as they take the exams and follow the same procedure as other teachers seeking permanent appointment.