DEPUTIES are back from their holidays and suddenly all the political parties are trying to capitalise on the teaching dispute. The opposition parties, as to be expected, have sided with the teaching unions, but this has not stopped them from playing the mediators and acting as honest brokers.
First, they tried to convene the House education committee to discuss the dispute, but because the chairman was a member of Disy, which is on the government’s side, he ignored these requests. This led Akel, the staunchest backer of the teachers, to convene the House labour committee to discuss the impasse between the two sides, as the chairman was a member of the party. He gave the matter a ‘labour’ twist, focusing on the industrial consequences of the crisis in education.
The meeting was held on Tuesday and the committee invited all the union bosses and the education minister who was heavily outnumbered. It was another opportunity for the ubiquitous union bosses, who have been on TV and radio shows every single day for the last month, to repeat their dubious message about defending public education and blaming the government’s arbitrariness for the crisis.
As a counter-measure the Disy chairman of the education committee also called a meeting to discuss the dispute on Wednesday, on which the labour committee was scheduled to meet again. In the end, the two committees held a joint session, under the chairmanship of House president Demetris Syllouris, who has undertaken a personal mediation initiative. The session was put back to Friday so that the compromise proposal prepared by the opposition parties could be studied by the government.
This proposal could only be described as a joke. It suggests the government suspends the decision it took on July 4 for the rationalisation of education, which caused the dispute in the first place, and in return the unions would suspend all planned industrial action. But if the government suspended the decision, the unions would have no cause for industrial action because they would have secured exactly what they were demanding, so what compromise would they be making?
At least the Disy leader Averof Neophytou’s proposal contained an element of compromise. He suggested that the teachers accepted the deal drafted by their union leaders and the president at the presidential palace last Thursday, which was a compromise, and suspended planned action; the two sides would then start negotiations with an end of year deadline.
What is happening is laughable and the government is behaving pathetically in not shutting the door on the pseudo-compromise proposals of the opposition parties playing their silly populist games. A compromise was reached between the government and union bosses at last Thursday’s meeting. If teachers refuse to accept it, they should go on strike. This should be the line of the government, nothing less.