THE primary school teachers’ union Poed strongly hinted at further strike action on Wednesday if the education ministry failed to allay concerns over the employment status of some of their colleagues.
The union announced that its board would decide on Thursday its reaction to the government’s decision to issue 10-month contracts to temporary teachers instead of the more usual 12-month contracts the union is demanding.
The union said it would go ahead with making the decision on Thursday even though the education ministry had already announced it would only submit the new employment terms to the union in writing on Friday.
Poed staged a work stoppage last week on the same issue and general understaffing problems in schools.
A meeting on Tuesday between Education Minister Costas Kadis, Poed and parents’ associations failed to reach an agreement.
Despite reassurances from Kadis that this would be the only school year where the 10-month contract would be implemented, Poed insisted it would still cause problems in schools.
“The basic principle of the union is that it does not accept this employment status,” the head of Poed Fylios Phylaktou told state broadcaster CyBC. He added that if the contracts given to those teachers were for less than a year, “we will not accept it”.
He said that the new status concerned 147 teachers, but Kadis insisted the 10-month contracts applied to 125 teachers at all public education levels of which just 15 were primary school teachers. Another 103 teachers, Kadis said, would be given one-year contracts.
The unions argue that the 10-month contract is introducing a new employment status in teaching somewhere between reserve teachers who just fill in for colleagues on sick leaves, and that of temporary teachers on one-year contacts.
The status of the reserve teacher, Phylaktou told CyBC, is “completely different” from that of the teacher on contract.
“You understand that we are now looking at an employment status somewhere in the middle,” Phylaktou said.
“The (union) board will decide how to procced. Nothing is ruled out considering Poed already went on a two-hour work stoppage for the very same issue,” Phylaktou said.
Kadis said that the differences were tiny and called on Poed to “behave responsibly” and safeguard the smooth operation of public education.
Poed did not convince parents either.
“It is clear to us that the work stoppage was not over staffing problems. It is clear that it is about the new employment status of teachers,” said the head of primary education parents’ association Maria Savva.
She added that at Tuesday’s meeting no Poed member raised the issue of understaffing in schools. She said the ministry had explained clearly why it had introduced these new contracts and that their terms are proportionally the same as those teachers on one-year contracts.
Kadis said the cabinet had commissioned a study into streamlining the employment of teachers both in primary and secondary education and that within the year there might be changes based on the results of this study.
It was therefore deemed best not to give one-year contracts to all teachers called on to fill in empty posts as they might not be needed for the whole year.