State public schools remain empty during a 48-hour strike that started Tuesday morning, with teachers threatening to take legal action and the government seeking ways to defuse the situation.
Teacher unions, who have the backing of thousands of educators, argue that the government is neglecting big reform issues for the improvement of public education, such as professional assessments, while targeting unions.
Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris went on television in the morning to defend the government, saying a July 4 Cabinet decision that redefined the number of exemption hours for teachers also addressed bigger issues, including assessment.
“Back in June, a committee was formed to address these issues, with students and teachers and parents involved in the process,” the minister said.
The minister also refuted allegations that the government called in strikebreakers, denying rumours that the ministry sent out special forms to be filled out by individual educators
“When we were having discussions, some people did not show up,” Hambiaouris added.
The minister says the process is ongoing but many problems have been piling up over the years, despite previous administrations trying to tackle different aspects of school reform.
“The teacher evaluation issue has remained open for 40 years,” the minister said.
The government is reportedly seeking ways to take action against rolling strikes, following union decision calling members to “go slow” during the school year on a number of proposed measures.
Hambiaouris told Sigmalive that a number of teachers contacted the Education Ministry to say they would normally go to work during the 48-hour strike.
The minister also refuted allegations that the government called in strikebreakers, denying rumours that the ministry sent out special forms to be filled out by individual educators.
Hambiaouris was referring to an old document dated in 2010 that resurfaced during union protests, saying it was not sent by his administration. However, a new form would be made available to educators after the strike, to be filled by those who showed up for work normally.
“Given that the right to strike is guaranteed by the constitution and fully respected, we discussed with the attorney general ways of taking lawful measures so that the state can ensure that our children have uninterrupted access to education,” the minister said.