The head of primary education teachers’ union, Filios Fylaktou, on Wednesday described Education Minister Costas Kadis as an enemy of education and teachers and declared that Thursday’s planned strikes would go ahead.
Poed union is staging industrial action to protest parliament’s approval of two bills overhauling the system of appointing teachers to state schools.
Fylaktou said that last week’s vote was a crime against teachers perpetrated by the political parties and the education ministry.
“We are deeply concerned about the fate of the new appointment system, which is being promoted as an innovation in education, but which is built on sand and will collapse in the immediate future with court rulings,” Fylaktou said.
The union, he said, feels that Kadis has been damaging the teachers’ prestige and degrading their work.
“That is why, for Poed and the educational world, the education minister is an enemy of education and of the teachers,” Fylaktou said. He also slammed the parliamentary parties that adopted the proposals of the education ministry and gave the green light to the new ‘irresponsible’ appointment system.
Kadis quickly hit back, saying that there was no turning back and his ministry was determined to proceed with this reform.
“We have today the most outdated teacher hiring system across Europe,” Kadis told the Cyprus News Agency.
Thursday’s strike will affect schools of the Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta districts. The union called on its members to gather outside the education ministry to protest.
Another strike is to take place next Thursday, June 15 in Limassol and Paphos.
The strikes, Fylaktou said, were the ultimate measure but were deemed necessary because many teachers who had been working as temps for more than 30 months now faced unemployment.
“We want to send out a clear message that we are not prepared to accept such practices in the workplace, that are contrary to the legal framework,” he said.
Both the parliament and the education ministry, he said, have closed their doors on them, and stripped them of their rights. The affected teachers, some 350 people, demand open-ended contracts, and aim at taking to the courts to claim their right, Fylaktou said.
The union accuses the ministry of violating European court decisions by not recognising its obligation to change the terms of employment for those with more than 30 months of service in line with the rest of the public sector.
Poed is demanding that such teachers cannot be fired when the new regulations come into force. The union maintains that as long as positions exist for contract teachers, they must be filled first by those with more than 30 months’ experience.
But Kadis said that the teachers Poed want to be given open-ended contracts are not included in the categories included by the state legal services.
“The legal services state clearly that teachers that have served or serve as substitutes do not have the right to be given open-ended contracts,” Kadis said.
This concerns 119 teachers – who “will not be thrown out on the street” – less than half Poed’s figure.
But Kadis also questioned the validity of Poed’s concerns as one of the basic provisions of the legislation passed by the House allowed these teachers to be hired under the existing system until 2027.
Most of them, he said, will be permanently appointed during the next ten years.
The new regulations replace the current regime, by which university graduates are appointed on the basis of graduation year, with annual exams-based appointments.
They include a 10-year transition period, during which both systems will operate, with varying weighted percentages of appointments from each, progressively eliminating the current system.
The first examinations for appointment to all state schools – pre-primary schools, primary schools, high-schools, and technical schools – will be held in October and November 2017.