Teacher unions on Friday unanimously rejected President Nicos Anastasiades’ proposal aimed at breaking a protracted stalemate, setting the stage for an escalation of the spat and disruption of the new school year.
Following a meeting on Friday, teachers said they were now focusing on their protest march on August 28, urging their members to participate. Trade unions Sek, Peo, Deok and Pasydy confirmed their support for teachers.
The education ministry expressed regret over the teachers’ rejection of the proposals, which were now off the table.
“It is stressed that the proposals that were rejected were not the government’s initial proposals, but the result of a three-hour negotiation between the president and the leaderships of the teacher organisations, which included the demands they had tabled,” the ministry said in a written statement.
It added that all the necessary preparation for the new school year has been done.
“Staffing has been completed based on procedures, as well as on the basis of the cabinet decisions on July 4, 2018,” the statement said, announcing all teacher transfers across all levels.
Earlier, government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said the president’s proposals were the only ones on the table and warned that the government could not allow unions to replace the education ministry.
“Implementation of decisions to abstain from their duties … forces us to emphasise that there will be a proportional reaction from the government,” Prodromou said.
The proposals included reduction in the off-class hours for the class supervisor from two to one. At the same time, absence record-keeping would be undertaken by the school administrations.
The government also proposed a reduction in the teaching periods, which educators got depending on years of service from two to one. Under the current system for example, primary school teachers have their periods cut by two to 27 after 15 years, and to 25 after 21 years.
The lost period would be compensated by an incremental pay rise.
An early retirement scheme was also proposed for teachers in secondary education who are 60 and above and primary school educators who are 58 and above. Their incentive would be to keep a 12 per cent penalty for early retirees that is in place at the moment.
Primary education union Poed president Fylios Fylaktou said that all three teachers unions voted unanimously against the government proposal, after the unions reconvened for a joint conference later on Friday.
“As of today we are focusing on the demonstration march which will be held next Tuesday 28 August and we call on all teachers to be present for the preservation of the dignity of educators, for democratic dialogue, but much for the quality of public education,” Fylaktou said.
A press conference will be held at 10am on August 27 on the details of the demonstration scheduled for the following day outside the presidential palace, as well as on the reasons for the rejection of the government proposal.
An additional press conference is scheduled for August 29, where teachers unions are expected to outline the course of action they will follow now that the government’s proposed compromise has been rejected.
The head of secondary education teacher union Oelmek, Yiannos Socratous, said Friday that teachers will be at their posts on the first day of school, but could not guarantee smooth operation.
Oelmek and the other unions, Oltek and Poed, held separate meetings on Friday morning to assess the President’s proposals but it appeared that they had already rejected the proposals.
Oltek boss Panayiotis Lysandrou said: “Our question is why dialogue did not take place first and decisions later, and this is the point causing the biggest problems.”
Oelmek and Oltek on Friday called on school principals not to attend the Pancyprian meeting of principals organised by the education ministry on August 30.
The unions called for a boycott of this meeting “as part of measures against the unilateral and unacceptable decisions of the government.”
The government said the meeting was part of the principals’ duties.
“If there is, either at this level or at any other level, a refusal to perform tasks – a strike is different – then the ministry of education is obliged, as would every employer, to take action,” the government spokesman said.
Parents association who also met Anastasiades on Friday had expressed their satisfaction with the government proposals, urging teachers to accept.
The head president of the confederation of primary school parents, Morfakis Solomonidis, said “the proposals come as a package. Educational organisations should accept the new proposals and enter a dialogue to correct all distortions in education.”
Peo general secretary Pampos Kyritsis said that “the measures proposed by the government are unacceptable,” and expressed his support for the teachers, as did representatives of Sek and Deok.