President Nicos Anastasiades has extended an invitation to public education union leaders in order to have an open dialogue on school reorganisation.
The announcement comes days after state teachers unions protested against Education Minister Costas Hambiarouris, who rejected their ultimatum to start dialogue from scratch.
The government is basically pushing a rationalisation agenda in public schools, in an effort to make the structure more cost efficient through reorganisation, primarily of teaching hour assignments.
The minister, an educator himself who rose through the ranks, says many teachers get paid for too many hours outside the classroom, citing examples where teachers, under the current system, get assigned far too fewer instructional hours as they age and become more experienced educators while others even get paid for their union activities.
According to the minister, 67 union members either teach fewer hours or none at all because of their own activities, costing the state over €700,000
According to Hambiaouris, 67 union members either teach fewer hours or none at all because of their personal activities, costing the state over €700,000 in about two dozen educator jobs.
“They tell me they want to be active in their unions. And they do it, of course. But why does the minister have to see them in the morning and not in the afternoon?” Hambiaouris wondered recently in an interview with ReporterCY.
Union leaders leave school once a week, leaving their class and students behind, even getting paid extra by the unions, according to the minister.
But educators say the government is trying to take some non-instructional time away from them in order to push for budget cuts.
Teachers are up in arms, citing lack of understanding on the part of the government and threatening with strikes at the beginning of the next school year in September.
Many took the social media to describe their work as educators, saying they need time to prepare for class, discipline students, and carry out other tasks that simply have to be done.
Other said they spend time at home grading papers, making the argument that the government cannot help teachers by taking away non-instructional time during school hours.
The unions have demanded that the minister withdraw his proposals and start dialogue from scratch, something which he refused to do and as a result they reached out to the president.
Parents groups also weighed in on the dispute, calling on all parties to come together at the same table and seek ways to improve public education.
A written statement by the Presidential Palace on Wednesday said the invitation would be for an open dialogue without preconditions, with school reogranisation as the main focus along with using public funds in the best possible way.
The meeting is set for Friday at 10:30am at the Palace.