Nicosia’s prestigious English School staff have threatened industrial action over the dismissal of three unionised teachers, with authorities worried as the new academic year is approaching.
Following a protest outside the parliament on Wednesday, while MPs were looking into the matter, the English School Staff Association (ESSA) announced they would escalate measures.
ESSA lawyer Stavros Stavrianides told MPs the dismissals clearly concerned the teachers’ involvement in the union, adding they had been targeted long ago.
The English School Board responded that the teachers were not targeted because of their union affiliation but were dismissed based on the school’s disciplinary code and ethical conduct.
Addressing the parliament on behalf of the English School board, lawyer George Georgiou argued that the school’s administration has no intention of targeting any employee over union action.
He presented letters from the department of labour stating that all procedures were followed and said the Attorney General also ruled that union law was not violated.
Georgiou said a court decision ratified the status of the school as private; as such, it can function under its own regulations.
As he argued, despite the law stipulating the English School’s real estate is vested in the Council of Ministers; however, the board is responsible for the management and control of the school.
The three teachers have also complained of intimidation by the school principal.
The Education Ministry’s George Koutsides called on both sides to put aside their differences in light of the new academic year, starting in early September.
MPs urged President Nicos Anastasiades to intervene.
Presidency official Pantelis Pantelides questioned whether it is institutionally correct for the president to intervene by annulling a decision of a private school board.
Auditor General, Odysseas Michaelides, said the cabinet acts as a trustee of the English School’s property, and the board is appointed by ministers, who can remove it.
“The English School might not be a legal person under public law, but that does not mean the Republic has no say in it,” Michaelides said.
He told MPs that since 2003, the state had subsidised the English School with €340,000, while in 2003, there was a budget of €2.1 mln for maintenance of the building’s facilities.
He also said the English School is included in the consolidated financial statements of the state prepared by the general accounting office.
Since founded in 1900, the school has offered a British-style secondary level education; it is one of the few institutions committed to bicommunal education for Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
In June, Prince Edward visited the school during his royal visit to celebrate Queen Elizabeth II‘s Platinum Jubilee across the Commonwealth.