Cyprus Mail

Teachers unions push back decisions until Sunday

File photo: Representatives of teachers unions (Christos Theodorides)

By Elias

THE three main state teachers’ unions will be jointly deciding on Sunday as to whether they will agree to an interim deal with the government concerning their terms of employment, they said on Thursday.

The syndicates held a long meeting during the day, debating a mediation proposal brought by the SEK umbrella trade union.

SEK’s proposal relates chiefly to procedural matters, such as that any changes to the employment terms of teachers must from now on be decided not unilaterally – by the employer, the government – but within the process of “institutional dialogue.”

It was designed to coax the unions into ending their industrial action by reassuring them no actions affecting them would be taken in the future without their input.

The three teachers’ unions said they were mulling the proposal, and would decide their course of action during a joint meeting scheduled for Sunday.

Reports suggested that cracks may be forming among the unions. The Poed and Oltek unions were said to be on board with the mediation proposal, but Oelmek (representing secondary school teachers) were holding out.

The syndicates’ 48-hour strike ended on Thursday, with teachers returning to schools. However, their threat of rolling strikes still looms.

The crisis began in July, when the government announced a string of measures designed to streamline the operation of public schools.

Unions were up in arms when the education ministry decided to reduce the time previously afforded to senior union cadres to engage in trade-union activities during normal working hours. With the change, certain union cadres would have been forced to spend more time in the classroom.

The government has since largely walked this back, bringing a revised proposal where the top officials from each trade union will be allotted a certain amount of hours per week to engage in union work during normal working hours.

The unions were left to decide on their own how to allot the hours per week among their senior cadres, provided the time cap on trade-union activities is not exceeded.

As things stand now, it’s understood the head of the Poed (primary schools) union Filios Fylaktou as well as the chief secretary Harris Charalambous, will be completely exempt from teaching duty.

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