The government and public school teachers agreed on Wednesday to immediately start talks on the various problems faced by state education, apparently ending a dispute that started more than two months ago.
The agreement was announced by Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris.
The minister said he was certain that through talks conducted in good faith and with all the parties’ cooperation, “the best results will be achieved on behalf of our children’s best interest, as civil society expects.”
The head of the primary school teacher union Poed, Fylios Fylactou said the agreement will eventually benefit the children.
“What is important is the positive conclusion,” he told state television. “We are entering a substantive dialogue.”
Fylactou would not get into details on the agreement that kept evading the two sides since early in July, saying only “we bridged the gap in a positive way.”
But no sooner was the deal announced than the vice chairman of secondary education teacher union Oelmek said he disagreed.
Pantelis Nicolaides told Sigmalive that the union’s chairman had no authorisation to strike a deal and anything put on the table on Wednesday would have to be approved by Oelmek’s board.
The crisis, which was marked by a 48-hour strike last week and work-to-rule action, began in July, when the government announced a string of measures designed to streamline the operation of public schools.
Teachers returned to their classrooms but had threatened rolling strikes if the dispute persisted.
At the end of August, thousands of teachers and people who supported them staged a protest march, which ended outside the presidential palace.
Unions were up in arms when the education ministry decided to reduce the free time previously afforded to senior educators as well as to 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 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 government has since largely walked this back, bringing a revised proposal where the top officials from each trade union will be allotted a certain number of hours per week to engage in union work during normal working hours.