Union teachers decided Wednesday to go on a rolling strike, starting with a 48-hour industrial action next week while warning the government this is only the beginning.
The leaderships of the three unions OELMEK, POED, and OLTEK, decided to go on a strike on Tuesday and Wednesday, September 18 and 19, following the failure of teachers and the education ministry to agree on partial reforms.
But the strike is only the beginning, said union leaders on Wednesday evening, who announced the formation of subcommittees to organise additional measures that will follow as well as take legal action against the government.
Teachers are accusing the education ministry of not having their consent regarding a July 4 Cabinet decision to realign the number of exempted teaching hours a large number of educators receive under the current system.
'The elected government has a mandate from the people to govern, not to be governed by unionists' says the president
The government maintains the decision is legal and necessary according to priorities set by the current administration, arguing that money saved from hiring extra teachers -who pick up the slack left by teachers on exemptions- could be spent elsewhere on schools.
President Nicos Anastasiades issued a stern warning Wednesday evening, telling reporters after an event that the government will not bow down to threats.
“The elected government has a mandate from the people to govern, not to be governed by unionists,” said the president, accusing the unions of agreeing on something one day and undoing it the next day.
Former education minister Costas Kadis, who is currently serving as agriculture minister, says the government rejects the position that there was no dialogue in the process.
“They had a dialogue with the president for six hours and another six hours with an ad hoc committee with three ministers. We even shook hands in the end in agreement,” the minister said.
But Kadis, who was asked by the president to weigh in following tense relations between his successor and union leaders, also dismissed the argument that “no reform could take place without consent from the unions.”
An emergency cabinet meeting was scheduled for Thursday with the discussion focusiong on ways the state can minimiσe the impact of strikes on students.
Last week, state teachers in public schools took a decision to ‘go slow’ in the first few days back to school, but they later reversed some of their measures. But they sought and obtained a stronger mandate from their members, essentially allowing the leadership to take any action they saw fir including a general strike.
Reports said a growing number of educators have been calling the ministry to say they did not agree with the strike, with several dissenters taking to social media to question the logic behind the strike.
President Anastasiades has also asked the Rector of the University of Cyprus, Professor Constantinos Christofides, to weigh in with his expertise on the crisis.