By Peter Stevenson
MEMBERS of secondary school teachers union OELMEK protested outside the education ministry yesterday against a decision preventing public school contract teachers from becoming permanent.
“We call on the education ministry to implement our proposals which will solve the current problems of understaffing, but more importantly it will boost public schools which will in turn benefit our children,” an OELMEK statement said.
Following a meeting last month, the union said it believed all contract teachers needed to be appointed permanently at public schools.
“Both the President and the Education Ministry must deliver on promises to appoint all the contract teachers, and we emphasise that we do not support making appointments for the sake of it. They should be made so public education can be upgraded,” the statement said.
The union also suggested the unfreezing of promotions as problems could be caused following a number of early retirements.
“We reaffirm our previous position that we will not accept a decision which will give current teachers more responsibilities,” the statement said.
On Wednesday a delegation from the primary school teachers union POED visited DISY headquarters and President Nicos Anastasiades in an effort to get parliament to agree to make some 300 contract-teachers, permanent.
“We received mixed messages as DISY chief Averof Neophytou told us he was against the move while we held positive talks with the President who said he would do his best to take our proposal to Parliament,” deputy head of POED Christoforos Theophanous told the Cyprus Mail.
The budget has a provision for 4,000 permanent primary, kindergarten and special education teachers. Every year 100 of those teachers retire and up until 2010, Theophanous explained, those positions would be filled by the next eligible 100 contract teachers.
“In 2011 the House Finance Committee decided that it would no longer be filling the spots vacated by retiring teachers, a move which was backed by DISY and DIKO,” he said.
“Neophytou told us that once a teacher becomes permanent then it becomes difficult to let them go so it is preferable to keep more contract teachers, who can be more easily let go, for the time being due to the uncertain financial future of the island,” Theophanous said.
Making 300 contract teachers permanent would have no additional cost to the government, the deputy head said and that is the reason he told the Mail that he hopes parliament will listen to the President’s plea.
“Unfortunately there are currently more than 800 contract teachers waiting to be made permanent even though we have accepted pay-cuts in our attempts to help the state,” he said.
Back in April, parliament approved scaled cuts (0.8 to 2.0 per cent) on the salaries of all public-sector workers, including teachers – a fiscal measure stipulated in the loan agreement between Cyprus and its international lenders.
The teachers unions say they went along with it because at the time they were promised that the savings generated from the pay cuts would be used to secure all contract employees.
Education Minister Kyriacos Kenevezos said in August that the need for teachers has lessened compared to last year because student attendance in public elementary and high schools this fall is forecast to drop by as much as 2,000.
The government said in August, public-school teachers whose contracts were not renewed for the 2013-2014 academic year were due to get jobs in the National Guard although they did not disclose any details.