EDUCATION minister Costas Kadis said on Friday he was caught off-guard by the announcement a day earlier of primary school teachers that they will go on strike next week to protest the widespread use of substitute teachers.
Primary teachers’ union Poed announced on Thursday that following a board decision, all its members will go on a “warning strike” at 12 noon on September 21.
The union said the cabinet’s decision to cover the real educational needs with the illegal innovation of filling permanent places through substitute teachers rather than providing annual contract, was ‘unacceptable’.
The union met with Kadis on Monday, and had said they would try and reverse the decision to use substitute teachers who are hired on long or short periods, even for a day.
“During our meeting with Poed, they didn’t seem to have any serious problems with the issue of staffing,” Kadis said.
On the contrary, he said, not only did schools have a smooth start, handing of staffing was the best of the last few years.
“This year we introduced policies to tackle problems which Poed had put forth for years, such as the administrative support of schools, increased cases of youth delinquency, and issues concerning learning disabilities,” he said.
There is a reason, Kadis said, why the cabinet decided that some teachers were given one-year contracts and some will work as substitute teachers.
The cabinet commissioned a study on the streamlining of the employment of teachers both in the primary and secondary education, he said.
“The government deemed that at some point within the year there might be changes based on the results of this study,” he said. For that reason, it was best not to give one-year contracts to all teachers who will be called to fill in empty posts as they might not be needed for the whole year.
From the 228 teachers who will be hired to help meet staffing shortages or absences in primary and secondary education, he said, 125 will be substitute teachers, while 103 will be given one-year contracts.
The House plenary already approved the amendment of the 2016 budget to allow the recruitment of the 103 teachers on contracts, as per the education ministry’s request.
But Poed’s move also left parents unimpressed who criticised the union for not informing them in advance as regards the work stoppage and for bringing up such an issue.
“They’ve lost the ball. We were talking about understaffing. Schools began with very few problems this year,” the head of the island’s primary parents’ association Maria Savva said.