Teachers will go on a protracted strike in September, unions announced on Thursday after a meeting between Oelmek, Oeltek and Poed convened in response to a letter from the minister outlining his position on Wednesday night.
The heads of the unions said they will now go ahead with measures announced on July 23, which will start with a protest on August 28 at 7pm before heading to strikes in September.
Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris’ letter was a response to demands by the unions which they laid out last Friday, and in it the minister refused to give in to them. On Monday the education minister’s oral response was not received well by the unions, which had a meeting between themselves on Tuesday after which they reiterated their position.
The unions on Thursday said he does not leave them much choice.
“From the beginning to the end it is not a letter from someone who wants to solve the problem,” Oelmek’s Yiannis Socratous said. “Someone who wants to solve the problem wouldn’t keep coming back to July 2 or July 4.”
He referred to the beginning of the conflict, which started with a government decision to streamline the operation of schools, including teaching hours.
It was decided to end the practice of reducing teaching periods according to years of service and additional responsibilities.
According to Socratous, education is currently under a lot of pressure and has to deal with a very serious problem.
While the unions say they are joining together to protect public schools, the minister says their actions are damaging public schools and adversely affect vulnerable groups of students.
In statements after the meeting, Poed head Philios Fylaktou said the unions will remain united to the very end.
“The letter of reply unfortunately leaves little room. What we want to say is that time is critical and it is now imperative for everyone to assume their responsibilities,” Socratous added.
Oltek also had its say, with head Panayiotis Lysandrou describing the letter as “unfortunate” and saying that it makes a dialogue with the minister “practically impossible”.
Socratous noted that the unions will reply to the education minister’s letter with a brief written message.
In response to the teachers’ comments on Thursday afternoon the education ministry revealed some of what they replied to the unions in their letter on Wednesday.
In his letter, Hambiaouris rejected the proposals of the unions, saying “they are not dealing with the issue at hand”, though he left open the possibility that some may be discussed at a later stage.
The minister noted some of the suggestions would damage public schools and adversely affect vulnerable groups of students.
Teachers secondments could not be reduced significantly, as the unions suggested, the ministry said.
“It would contribute substantially to the dialogue if you gave us your specific views on the measures already taken with the recent decision of the Cabinet, but also with regard to all the other exemptions and the consequent reduction of teaching time,” the statement said. “It is stressed that the Cabinet’s recent decision concerns about 13 per cent of all exemptions.”
According to the ministry, the unions should submit in writing their suggestions on the reduction of teaching time and the measures by the Cabinet which have been decided among them during their meetings on July 27 and August 5.
In the letter they sent to Hambiaouris, the unions proposed, among other things, that the ministry could reduce teacher secondments, suspend teacher training programmes, transfer permanent teachers who have become superfluous due to lack of interest by pupils in their subjects to other posts, and offer incentives for early retirement.