President Nicos Anastasiades has weighed in on the ongoing debacle between state educators and the government, drawing up a final offer to teachers and expecting an answer before the weekend is out.
Anastasiades, whose Cabinet approved measures for budgeting classroom hours in state schools, told union leaders on Thursday to make a decision before Monday, August 27, which is a day before the scheduled demonstration by organised teachers.
Teacher representatives from OELMEK, POED, and OLTEK unions, who opposed the measures and accused the government of ignoring them during the dialogue process, met with the President and Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris in a last ditch effort to avoid a bumpy start of the school year.
According to Kathimerini Cyprus, there will be no other offer on the table if the unions do not accept the President’s proposal. This means the government would proceed with current plans, approved by the Cabinet in July.
There will be no other offer on the table if the unions do not accept the President’s proposal
Media reports said if unions accept the proposal, then the march to the Presidential Palace on Tuesday will be cancelled, otherwise thousands of teachers and union members are expected to mobilize just days before first day of classes.
But it is not clear whether all unions will be able to meet Friday and decide how to respond to the proposal, with some reports suggesting this could be an all-weekend process for some groups.
Outline of President's proposal
The final proposal included a number of measures viewed by many observers as a middle-of-the-road offer and not ideal for either side.
One point included exemption from teaching duties for class supervisors to carry out other tasks, with the President reducing the hours from two down to one class period.
At the same time, class supervisors won’t have to bother keeping an absence log, which will become a task for school secretaries under the new plan.
The offer also stipulates that teachers will get a reduction of one teaching class period instead of two, each time as they reach 8, 16, and 20 years of service. But all teachers will be eligible to get a raise reflecting that class period.
Union leaders, with the exception of the two top executives in each of the three main groups, will lose their paid non-teaching schedule. This essentially means that the president and secretary of the unions will still have a full schedule to conduct union business during school time.
The proposal also includes a number of measures to encourage early retirement for teachers, where educators reaching 60 years of age can retire. Also, teachers who wish to retire at 58 will no longer have to pay a penalty, estimated at 12%.