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‘No light at the end of the tunnel’ in education crisis  (Updated)

The education ministry on Monday said it has given teaching unions all the measures decided by the cabinet earlier in the month over the streamlining of state schools, but the unions said the ongoing negotiations between the two sides were going nowhere.

The boards of the unions – Oelmek, Poed, Oltek – will meet on Tuesday to continue discussions, first separately and then together. Further action will depend on the ministry’s response on Wednesday.

According to the head of the Oelmek secondary teachers’ union, Yiannos Socratous, initial, oral replies from the education minister, “leave no room for a positive outcome.”

The discussion so far concerned procedural matters and not substantive ones, Socratous said.

Since July 2, the unions and the ministry have been at loggerheads over a decision by the ministry to end the reduction in teaching hours according to length of service and an attempt by the government to streamline teachers’ duties. The two sides have agreed on an intensive dialogue – launched last week – in a bid to reach a consensus to ensure the smooth opening of schools in September.

Socratous said on Sunday after a meeting of the three unions with the ministry, that there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel.

In a statement he had made in the presence of other union officials, he said a dialogue which cannot lead to solutions obviously cannot continue.

“After four days of intensive consultations, we are at a stage where you can see that there is no progress, at least not as much as we would like,” he said.

He said the unions put their contributions in writing on Friday.

Socratous said the minister has made an initial statement and will send a letter of reply by Wednesday.

“what really worries us is that we are 25 days before the start of the new school year, 25 days before September 1, and in fact there do not seem to be signs that there is an end to all,” he said.


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