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Teachers could very well be operating outside the law

 

TEACHERS’ union Poed and each teacher individually would be committing criminal and disciplinary offences should they opt to ignore the education ministry’s directives in order to push for longer contracts for replacement teachers.

As part of their protest measures, Poed has announced five one-period work stoppages, one per week per district. The first of these was staged on Wednesday in the Limassol district.

According to education news portal paideia-news.com, a legal opinion by the attorney-general’s office, cited by education minister Costas Kadis, said that non-compliance with ministry directives by teachers “constitutes a disciplinary offence”.

“It is no defence that their behaviour is incited by the union they belong to,” attorney-general Costas Clerides opined, according to Kadis.

The education ministry, Clerides added, must warn teachers of the law’s provisions, as well as the possible effects if they insist on non-compliance.

Additionally, if the union is found to be acting outside the purposes of its charter, penalties may be incurred.

“The question that must be answered is whether Poed’s action in urging its members to behave in a way that violates ministry directives and instructions on this particular issue is one outside its charter, and, as such, is illegal or sufficient to have it stricken off the union registry,” Clerides said.

Among other options, the attorney-general’s opinion added, the education ministry may opt to report Poed’s actions to the Unions Registrar, specifically for “inciting non-compliance by its members of the ministry’s directives and instructions on educational matters”, and request the legally-prescribed measures against the union.

Alternatively, the ministry may point out Poed’s actions that contravene its charter, while informing teachers that they are individually liable for committing disciplinary offences, which “will not be tolerated and will incur consequences”.

Poed’s key demand is for annual – 12-month – contracts to be given to term-teachers, instead of 10-month ones, as per a cabinet decision aiming to tackle staff shortages in schools.

The union is also protesting the government’s ignoring of its ultimatum, according to which it refuses to negotiate with Education Minister Costas Kadis any more, demanding that the issue be moved up to presidential level.

In a statement of response, Poed said Kadis continue to exploit the fact that public opinion seems to have turned against the strikes and “maintain the games of perception”.

“Methodically, they played the game of an invitation to a meeting, aiming to threaten Poed with a Legal Service opinion,” it said.

“Teachers most certainly implement the ministry’s educational directives. Poed knows very well what it is doing, and therefore does not incite teachers to commit any disciplinary offences.”

Poed asked Kadis to hand over the opinion’s full text to the union, along with the questions posed.

“It is very important to see what questions were asked,” the union said.

“We call on the education ministry and the minister to study issues more carefully. We were presented with legal opinions on the issue of recognizing open-ended contracts in education, which, very soon, will be recognized for all replacements with thirty months of teaching under their belts, and the ministry will scramble to amend the laws voted.”

Because nothing is ever done well in a hurry, Poed said, more careful study of issues by the education ministry, instead of perception games, is in order.

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