By George Psyllides
PRESIDENT Nicos Anastasiades is prepared to amend a July 4 decision that irked teachers and led to protests, provided it was warranted, amid an intensive dialogue based on a compromising proposal tabled on August 23 that has already been rejected by the teachers, the government spokesman announced on Thursday.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, the government reiterated its determination to resolve all outstanding issues, based on the various expert studies and the recommendation of the European Commission and other organisations.
“At the same time, he wants to send a message, which he hopes those involved in the country’s education can relate with: the government’s determination to introduce the reforms necessary to attain the education system the new generation is entitled and the society expects,” Prodromos Prodromou said.
The two sides have been at loggerheads for the most part of the past two months over a July 4 cabinet decision, which mostly focused on limiting teaching hour exemptions. The decisions allowed the government to hire around 157 teachers instead of some 320 previously mooted.
Teacher unions said the decisions were taken unilaterally without consultation.
The government tabled a compromise proposal after a three-hour meeting with teachers on August 23, which was promptly rejected.
On Tuesday, thousands of teachers and people who supported them took part in a protest march, which ended up outside the presidential palace.
The next day, the government reiterated its call to teachers to return to the negotiating table as political parties launched initiatives to bridge the divide between the two sides.
On Thursday afternoon, Prodromou said the administration was prepared to make corrections if evidence was presented to warrant them during an intensive dialogue that would have the August 23 proposals as its starting point.
Anastasiades also suggested that labour disputes should be referred to the education service’s joint personnel committee while those concerning the state’s education policy should be negotiated with the minister who will be flanked by experts.
“The president hopes that today’s proposal affords the opportunity for a creative dialogue on all the issues that concern education with a three-month deadline,” Prodromou said.
The August 23 proposals were filed after a three-hour meeting between Anastasiades and the unions and were seen as a compromise to the previous ones.
The proposals included reduction in the teaching exemption hours for a form teacher 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.