Union teachers and government officials are closer than ever to restarting dialogue, following the adoption of a bridging proposal that appears to have ended the long dispute.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, just two out of several proposals were combined on Wednesday during an emergency meeting between union educators and ministers on a special cabinet subcommittee, essentially finding a way towards restarting a peaceful dialogue.
The proposals, tabled by organised parents and SEK trade union, reportedly would make it possible for the education ministry and union teachers to discuss a whole host of issues on school reform while highly contested topics will be deferred to the Departmental Joint Personnel Committee on Education (MEPEY) for resolution, such as exempted instructional hours.
Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris issued a statement saying the deal reached on Wednesday in a spirit of compassion would bring about positive changes and help upgrade the public school system.
“I am certain that a dialogue in good faith with the participation and cooperation of all involved will achieve better results by putting the children’s interests first, which is what people want,” the minister said.
Some of the union leaders praised the deal while others were quick to offer caution. POED union leader Filios Fylactou called the deal “a positive development for the benefit of the children” while OELMEK vice chairman Pantelis Nicolaides warned that the union’s full board would first have to okay the deal.
If the deal goes through, it would mark the end of rolling strikes and slowdowns as well as the treacherous path towards school reform that was frozen back in July, following what union teachers called the government’s mishandling of issues through unilateral decisions.
The government has maintained that it never walked away from dialogue, while at the same time asserting its right to enact specific measures according to administration priorities and budgeting policy guidelines.