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Unions demand dialogue over changes to teaching hours

More investment was needed in vocational education and training, adult learning, early childhood education and care, and health, the commission said.

Schools will not open in September with the ministry of education in charge if there is no comprehensive dialogue on changes to teaching hours, the three teachers unions Oelmek, Poed and Oltek decided unanimously on Monday.

The conflict between the unions and the ministry started after the cabinet decision last week to rationalise teachers’ duties and teaching hours.

Changes include abolishing exemptions from teaching for trade union and extra-curricular activity. Cabinet also decided to discontinue the standard practice of reducing senior teachers hours spent in front of the classroom according to their years of service and age.

During the two-hour meeting of their central governing bodies on Monday, the unions decided on the next steps they will take after they threatened to strike and cut off contact with government last week.

They agreed to hold a press conference on July 12 and mobilise 13,000 union members outside the education ministry on July 13.

In a statement, head of Oelmek Yiannos Socratous said the meeting was a crucial one as it was the first time the three governing bodies met.

He said schools will not open in September under the education ministry if the problems are not solved.

“This is something we want to emphasise,” he said. “And we also call on the minister to withdraw the concrete measures. We call on him to enter into a dialogue, but starting from scratch. We do not think that the dialogue should be an ‘a la carte’, that is, some things are decided and enforced and some others are subjects for debate. So, let everything be on the table, let’s discuss it.”

He said the teachers were in favour of rationalisation but warned “it should be the right kind of rationalisation.”

The unions called on the education minister to initiate such a discussion or submit his resignation.

Socratous confirmed the possibility that the school year may start with work stoppages if the issues are not resolved.

“If things really get to this point, you realise that things will be tragic for education,” he stressed.

“We just want to send this message: We still have time to anticipate developments. We are open to a dialogue on all issues surrounding rationalisation.”

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