EVERY day the teaching dispute throws up a new absurdity. The latest unfolded at a Limassol police station where the general secretary of Poed went to file a complaint against the minister of education and the council of ministers, regarding the latter’s July 4 decision to abolish time for union work. “We are obliged in accordance with international conventions and Cyprus legislation to file a complaint against the decision of the cabinet,” said general secretary Charis Charalambous.
Until this decision, teaching union leaders were exempt from all teaching duties and were paid by the taxpayer to do union jobs full-time. The cabinet abolished this practice and the education ministry assigned full-time teaching duties to all union officials for this school year on the grounds that union work could be done in the afternoons. It caused outrage among the union bosses, who seem even more averse to teaching than their members, and could have fuelled the militancy we have been witnessing in the last couple of months.
Akel newspaper Haravghi made the most of this in its anti-government propaganda. “Black day for teaching unionism, which is under methodical pressure for its dissolution,” it reported on its front page on Monday, engaging in blatant fake news.
In fact, it ignored the compromise proposal submitted on August 23, by the government, which envisaged the non-teaching regime for two officials from each union and a government fund of €175,000 to cover supply-teaching costs so other union officials could skive off work when the need arose. All unions rejected the proposal.
Now they are claiming the government was not only breaking the law, but also trying to destroy teaching unions because it attempted to end the privileges of unions bosses, who do no teaching, yet never miss out on promotion and are paid by the taxpayer.
Is it morally justified for us to pay teaching union bosses to be full-time employees of the union? We doubt the international conventions and Cyprus law, Charalambous cited, make any mention about the taxpayer picking up the wage bills of teaching unions.
This is another union abuse, imposed in the days when unions were calling all the shots. The sensible arrangement would be for those elected union leaders to leave their school jobs and be paid by the union, which they will serve, until they return to teaching. This is not a legal issue as is being claimed but a moral one. The state has no right to waste the taxpayer’s money funding unions, but the unions bosses are very good at twisting the truth and making out that they are the victims.
They even had the audacity to accuse the government of intransigence, when the unions have refused to budge an inch from their original position that the cabinet decision be revoked in its entirety.