State teachers and the government failed to reach an agreement this week, with the education minister saying the unions were placing demands that cannot be addressed before September and accusing them of avoiding the budgeting issue.
Organised teachers from three unions, OELMEK, OLTED, and POED, say they have no choice but to follow through with their measures they had decided back in late July, which include marching and striking in the beginning of the school year as well as cutting talks with the government.
The unions are upset after receiving a letter on Wednesday by Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris, notifying them of his position on a number of proposals they submitted to the government last week in a last ditch effort for labour peace.
The minister says union proposals do not address the core issue of the debate, which is budgeting hours in the classroom
Hambiaouris said the ministry was open to discussion regarding issues raised by the unions, such as temporary assignments, adult education classes, and early retirement.
But the minister said in his letter that none of those issues could be solved or even discussed right away, while also pointing out that the union proposals did not offer realistic alternatives and did not address the core issue of the debate, which is budgeting hours in the classroom.
The unions were not happy with the response, saying they have no other choice but to march in protest on August 28, with possible strikes to follow in September as school begins.
OELMEK union representative Yiannos Socratous said the minister’s letter was “provocative and unacceptable” and accused Hambiaouris of not wanting to solve the problem.
According to Socratous, the letter made references back to July 4, which was the date the Cabinet approved a plan to rationalize the budget by adjusting a number of paid teaching hours to actual classroom instructional activity as per government policy.
Teachers say the government is trying to shift some hours and take away non-instructional time in order to push for larger budget cuts.
But Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris said there were no plans to cut the overall budget, except to move money around in order to pay teachers for their instructional time and save up for other activities, such as dealing with student delinquency, managing school safety, and addressing health issues.
Hambiaouris previously said 67 educators, who either teach fewer hours or none at all because of their union activities, end up costing the state over €700,000.