States teachers unions rejected over the weekend a government attempt to seek middle ground in budgeting exempted hours, saying they had nothing to do with the proposal and warning they would resist any change without mutual agreement.
Representatives of the three unions, OELMEK, POED, and OLTEK, who have been at odds with the Education Ministry over the government’s attempt to rationalise the budget for instruction during class periods, say they won’t accept putting aside what they call ‘institutionalised dialogue’.
The unions held a press conference Monday to address the reasons why they rejected a presidential proposal over the weekend, citing ulterior motives and lack of process on the part of the government.
Teachers march Tuesday, schools open regularly next week
A march has been planned for Tuesday, August 28, where thousands are expected to be bused in from other towns to demonstrate against the government and what unions call an affront to state public education.
Union leaders have called on member of the public who support educators to march along with the teachers to show their support.
'Without even a larger number of students, there are more teachers being hired because of these exemptions,' the minister said
But unions said teachers would be in their classrooms on first day of classes next week, while warning that they will consult with each other for additional action after the academic year goes into full swing.
School reform step by step
The government has been mounting efforts to realign the number of instructional hours in the classroom with teachers’ pay by reducing the number of class periods educators can exempt or claim as ‘free time’ to carry out unrelated tasks and union business during the academic year 2018-2019.
Education Minister Costas Hambiaouris made clear that the government was not cutting salaries but simply offering a plan under which a number of teachers would be able to exempt fewer hours on payroll that they could use for non-teaching duties, with the latest proposal cutting two down to one hour.
“Without even a larger number of students, there are more teachers being hired because of these exemptions,” the minister said Monday.
State teachers say they need those exempted hours to carry out tasks that have been assigned to them, while both sides have acknowledged that a number of duties could be taken over by administrative staff, such as keeping an absence log.
But Hambiaouris believes the state is overspending when it comes to exempted hours and money saved from the measures could be directed towards other areas, such as support staff and programmes for students.
He said the government gave dialogue a chance and last Friday there was an agreement, he said, which included taking away menial tasks and assigning them to school secretaries.
President Nicos Anastasiades, who intervened last week with a new proposal based on a meeting with union leaders, offered compromises on a July Cabinet decision but teachers rejected the offer saying it was not the product of a proper dialogue.
Despite heated debate in public media, the minister says the government will move forward with school reform.
Education ministry officials have also been trying to reform the way new teachers are being hired, allowing candidates to utilise a number of qualification assets besides their seniority on a current first-come-first-served list of candidates based on when they registered with the government.
Education experts say this would allow young candidates who are qualified and passionate about teaching to have a fair chance at being hired based on their abilities as educators, not based on how quickly they can put their names on a long list with thousands of candidates.
Another aim of the government has been to introduce a plan for an effective teacher evaluation and support, something which has been lacking in the school system but has remained controversial.