The main unions representing public school teachers announced on Monday that they will be going on a ‘protracted’ strike as of September, as a reaction to what they call unilateral steps by the government to change teaching timetables.
The syndicates (Oelmek, Poed and Oltek) met separately in the morning, and then jointly, at which meetings delegates voted unanimously to take drastic action.
They will also be staging a demonstration outside the presidential palace on August 28.
The announcement came a day ahead of a scheduled meeting with the education minister to discuss their grievances.
Speaking at a news conference, head of the Oelmek union Yiannos Socratous said the government left them no choice.
“The government has violated institutional dialogue and, even while rolling out its unilateral policy, it has embarked on a campaign to vilify educators,” he said.
Among other steps, the unions plan to report the Cypriot state for its anti-labour conduct to the ILO (International Labour Organisation, a United Nations agency) and the ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation).
Additionally, in the weeks to come they will be seeking meetings with political parties and with the House education committee.
“We are already consulting with our legal advisers to precisely examine the legality of the decisions taken by the cabinet. You understand that the unions are on high alert, and we shall be announcing any decisions in due course.”
Socratous demurred on a journalist’s question as to whether schools would be opening or not, come September.
“The decision is that we are proceeding with protracted strike measures,” he offered.
He also did not state explicitly whether the unions would after all be attending a meeting on Tuesday called by the education minister.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “the minister has left us no room to come to a dialogue, as the minimum precondition we set – discussing all education issues from scratch – has not been met.”
Public school teachers are up in arms over a government decision to streamline the operation of schools, including teaching hours.
Education minister Costas Hambiaouris decided to end the practice of reducing teaching periods with years of service and additional responsibilities. Up until now, after eight years of service, teachers get to teach two fewer periods per week, four fewer after 12 and six after 20 years.
Hambiaouris particularly riled the syndicates after deciding to end the exemption from teaching for the union bosses. In the timetable for the new school year, the teaching union bosses have to teach full-time – no longer will they be paid by the taxpayer to do union work during school hours.