JUST a month into the new school year, the primary teachers union Poed decided to step up its blackmailing by announcing one-hour work stoppages. These would not take place at all schools on a single day but for the sake of variety would be held on different days in each district, presumably, so the public would be made aware of Poed’s blackmail more regularly.
But this was not the only measure decided by the union on Thursday, which was also responding to President Anastasiades’ snub. Poed, audaciously, had given the president an October 13 deadline to step in and resolve its dispute with the ministry of education over the duration of contracts of replacement teachers, but, quite rightly, was ignored.
Anastasiades has much more important things on his agenda than to pander to Poed’s blackmailers and become involved in an absurd issue which should not even have been up for discussion. The union objects to the 10-month contracts offered to replacement teachers by the ministry, insisting these should be 12-month so as to cover holidays.
The problem is that we have a very weak education minister in Costas Kadis, who has repeatedly given in to the union’s blackmail and has allowed Poed to believe it can call the shots all the time. On the specific issue the ministry has strong arguments which it is afraid to put across forcefully.
First, it is the employer’s exclusive right to decide how many teachers it wants for the schools. Unfortunately, Kadis lost this argument by giving in to Poed’s blackmail to hire more teachers at the start of the school year. Second, it is the employer’s exclusive right to decide what contracts it would offer support staff, because it has to stick to its budget. Third, the ministry has the political, legal and moral authority to decide how state schools would operate because it serves the public and not self-interested teachers like Poed does.
This failure by Kadis to spell out the blatantly obvious has made the union believe, justifiably, that it runs state primary education. The fuss it is now making about the contracts, which is a trivial issue, is in order to show the ministry it is in charge. To prove the point it has decided several other ‘measures’ that would be in place until the government withdraws the decision on 10-month contracts. Teachers would not participate in any training programmes, they would block the introduction of any new school reform, would boycott ongoing education reform discussions and any ministry measure would require Poed’s approval. The most ludicrous decision of all is the invitation to parents to join the dynamic action by telling their children to carry out ‘stoppages’ as well.
Poed’s leadership has proved beyond reasonable doubt its use of blackmail and bullying, but what is worse is that the government’s pathetically weak response, makes it appear that the union’s behaviour is perfectly reasonable.