The education ministry was slammed on Saturday for firing a contract teacher after they refused to undergo the mandatory weekly rapid test for coronavirus.

In a statement denouncing the ministry’s “arbitrary” decision, the Equality Labour Union argued the ministry acted outside the legal framework and abused its power.

“This act is arbitrary because the submission of any person to a medical act, such as this one, always requires or presupposes their informed and conscious consent in order to safeguard their autonomy and free will,” the union wrote on social media, citing the general principles of the administrative law which govern public administration acts.

The union also called on the ministry to withdraw the “illegal dismissal of the contract teacher”.

According to the decree by the health ministry, all school staff and students must present a negative rapid test every week. Meanwhile a percentage of the employees in other companies and organisations are also obliged to present a negative weekly rapid test.

The public-school teacher fired was working under a fixed-term contract and not a permanent contract according to the union.

A health ministry official had told the Cyprus Mail that “no exceptions will be made” for those who refuse to undergo a rapid test, and a substitute teacher would be called to fill in.

The Equality Labour Union represents self-employed people and those working with fixed-term or indefinite contracts.

Commenting on the teacher’s dismissal later in the day, the head of state secondary teachers’ union Oelmek Themis Polyviou said he respected the individual’s refusal to undergo a rapid test but “we are obliged to implement these decisions since they are regulations for the operation of schools.”

“I understand that his contract has been terminated, but it does not mean that he will not be able to return to school with a new contract,” he said.