Cyprus: Latest working life developments – Q4 2017

A work stoppage by cleaning staff at the state hospital in Limassol, and the agreement to establish a single collective agreement for all local government employees are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Cyprus in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Cleaners’ work stoppage in Limassol state hospital

Cleaning staff at the state hospital in Limassol stopped work for four hours on 19 December 2017 to protest about the long-term shortage of cleaners. A representative of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) said the strike was to raise awareness and spur on the Ministry of Health to tackle the issue which is affecting both the working rights of the cleaners and public health.

The shortage is due to a number of staff retiring, some moving from one state hospital unit to another and numerous sick leaves. In addition, the hospital owes its cleaners more than 500 working days of annual leave, along with nearly 2,000 worked days off in lieu. The stoppage was sparked by the cleaners’ fears that they would lose this entitlement as the end of the year was approaching without any provision for transferring the days to 2018.

The striking cleaners gave the hospital administration 10 days to address the situation, threatening that, without a resolution, they would schedule a 24-hour strike for 4 January 2018. Two days after the December stoppage, however, trade unions and the hospital administration came to an agreement, which includes:

  • the hiring of three additional permanent staff (two female and one male cleaner);
  • four extra replacement positions;
  • transferring the accrued leave to 2018.

Maria Siggeri, a trade unionist representing PEO (Limassol), expressed her satisfaction in a phone conversation to the authors at both the immediate response of the hospital administration and the positive conclusion of the dispute. Ms Siggeri said that the arrangement resolves the current issue of the burden of work of cleaners and they now feel vindicated because they are not losing their leave entitlement.

Single collective agreement for all employees in local government  

An historic agreement was signed on 5 December 2017 between PEO, the Cyprus Workers’ Confederation (SEK), and the Union of Cyprus Municipalities (UCM) for the unification of collective bargaining in the sector, and for the renewal of collective agreements (2017–2018). The agreement affects around 3,000 employees of the island’s 30 municipalities covering two staff categories – permanent employees and hourly-paid workers.

The preceding agreement of the stakeholders on common salary scales and service plans of municipality employees reached last year is seen as the forerunner of the current agreement. The agreement foresees the harmonisation of employment benefits of all municipality employees, including the foundation of a common provident fund and the establishment of common terms of employment in the two staff categories. In practice, the agreement repeals the 60 existing collective agreements (split equally between the staff categories) and foresees the establishment of just two agreements – one for each category.

The agreement sets a deadline of 31 May 2018 for the trade unions and employers to agree three objectives:

  • the percentage rise in wages;
  • the restoration of the cuts in wages carried out since the economic crisis;
  • the integration of new entrants who have started work in the sector since 2011.   

Commentary

Trade unionists attribute great importance to the agreement as it is the first time that a centralised collective bargaining process in this sector has been negotiated, reducing the burden of renewing 60 single collective agreements. More importantly, the agreement is seen by trade unionists as a way of stopping the deregulation of the institution of collective agreements and as an important step against ‘flexible’ forms of employment. The trade unions also see the agreement as empowering the sector and supporting the efficacy of the municipalities.

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