Difficult days lie ahead in public education, with state teachers unions saying a last-minute proposal by ruling party Disy, at least at face value, is no different than the latest government measures already rejected.
Two of the three unions, OELMEK, and OLTEK, have flat-out rejected Disy leader Averof Neophytou’s suggestion where he proposed that a set of controversial measures be applied for only half a year while intense dialogue on a full range of issues also took place through December 2018.
Following a massive demonstration on Tuesday, where organised teachers marched to the Presidential Palace to protest government measures, educators have remained firm on their position.
“The decision is a one-way street,” said OELMEK leader Pantelis Nikolaides.
He also said his union already started printing ballots for a vote on September 5 to decide whether their members would go on strike.
Possible sign of a rift within unions
'The government is determined to move forward to attain an education system that does right by the new generation and reflects society's expectations'
But POED leader Filios Fylaktou made comments on Thursday suggesting that any ultimate rejection would depend on the language used in the final draft of the proposal.
POED second-in-command, Charis Charalambous, took to social media to clear things up, saying that the president and secretary of the organisation were addressing different people within the government.
“We are saying exactly the same thing but in a different way because we have different personalities,” Charalambous said.
The union later clarified its position against the measures in no uncertain terms, with all three of them standing together following consultations up until noon Friday.
The government had warned that if the measures were not applied at the start of the school year, which is next week, there would be a number of operation problems.
Prodromos Prodromou, the government spokesperson, said President Nicos Anastasiades has suggested that controversial measures, essentially those affecting exemption hours for union teachers, could be applied along with intensive dialogue on a number of other issues to improve the quality of education.
“The government is determined to move forward with changes and reform in order to attain an education system that does right by the new generation but also reflects the expectations of society,” Prodromou said.
Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris has said more teachers were being hired even with fewer students in state public schools “because of these exemptions.”
Hambiaouris has called on teachers to pick up the slack so that the government could save millions of euro in additional hires, promising to inject that money back into the education system.
But teachers say over 200 educators would lose their jobs if the measure goes into effect.