Anti-discrimination guide for Turkish Cypriot workers

The Cyprus Labour Institute has published an anti-discrimination guide, entitled ‘Learn to help yourself’, for Turkish Cypriot workers. The guide aims to provide information to organisations that represent the interests of Turkish Cypriot workers, as well as to the workers themselves. It provides information on public services, trade union organisations and other voluntary organisations that offer help and support in cases of discriminatory treatment.

Within the framework of the EU-funded Programme for Employment and Social Solidarity (PROGRESS) on ‘Awareness-raising activities against discrimination on the grounds of race, ethnicity, religion and age’, the Cyprus Labour Institute (Ινστιτούτο Εργασίας Κύπρου, ΙΝΕΚ-PΕΟ) has issued a guidebook, entitled ‘Learn to help yourself’, for Turkish Cypriot workers discrimination at the workplace and in society as a whole.

The guide describes the European and Cypriot anti-discrimination legislation, the country’s industrial relations and social welfare systems, as well as the social insurance and healthcare schemes. It aims to offer information both to organisations that represent the interests of Turkish Cypriot workers, who are among those protected by the legislation against discrimination and racism, and to the workers themselves.

European and Cypriot anti-discrimination legislation

The first part of the guide presents the European anti-discrimination legislation, with particular reference to the additional provisions of Cypriot legislation. The aim is to give the reader an overall picture of what discrimination consists of, which forms of discrimination are prohibited, and which possibilities workers have under the legislation for dealing with discriminatory treatment against them.

In 2004, Cyprus transposed European anti-discrimination legislation into national law by enacting four decrees, with certain additions reflecting the country’s particular situation and international obligations – such as the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of community or national origin, language or colour. ‘Community origin’ refers specifically to the two communities living in Cyprus – the Greek Cypriot community and the Turkish Cypriot community. The 2004 legislation also stipulates that the Office of the Commissioner for Administration (Γραφείο Επιτρόπου Διοικήσεως, Ombudsman) is the competent authority for combating racism and discrimination.

Industrial relations, employment and social welfare

Cyprus has a highly developed system of industrial relations, which determines the rights and obligations of workers and employers, the relations between them and workers’ terms and conditions of employment. The industrial relations system is based on the principles of the right of workers and employers to organise collectively, bargain and conclude collective agreements.

Right to organise

The right to organise is protected by the Constitution and the legislation of the Republic of Cyprus, as well as the European Union treaties. However, according to the trade unions, there are cases of employer attempts to use various threats to prevent workers from becoming organised in trade unions. This problem is particularly acute among Turkish Cypriot workers who may not be aware of their rights and may be vulnerable to pressures from employers. The guide encourages Turkish Cypriot workers to seek, together with their colleagues, membership in trade union organisations, both for the benefits resulting from such membership and to avoid being exposed to the possibility of arbitrary acts by their employers.

Jobseeking

Turkish Cypriot workers are entitled to use the country’s public employment services. If Turkish Cypriot citizens are unemployed or looking for a better job, they may apply to the local offices of the Public Employment Service (Δημοσια Υπηρεσια Απασχολησησ), which operates under the supervision of the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance (Υπουργείου Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων, MLSI). Services are provided free of charge to jobseekers, including placement in suitable jobs, advice and information on occupations and their prospects, as well as information on vocational training.

Social insurance scheme

As in all EU Member States, a social insurance scheme also operates in Cyprus. Although participation in the scheme is compulsory, trade unions have noticed that a great number of workers do not pay contributions to the Social Insurance Fund, for which the employers are mainly liable. The guide advises Turkish Cypriot citizens to ensure that their employer does pay the required social insurance contributions and that these contributions are in fact proportionate to their real wages. Turkish Cypriot workers who have made contributions to the Social Insurance Fund that are insufficient to claim regular old-age pensions are entitled to receive a lump-sum payment, provided that they have paid contributions to the fund for at least three years.

Healthcare

Access to Cyprus’s healthcare system is provided according to income criteria. Depending on their income, those eligible may obtain a hospital card, either Card A (without fees) or Card B (with reduced fees). However, by government decision, all Turkish Cypriots who have an identity card of the Republic of Cyprus have the right to obtain Card A, irrespective of income. The same applies to the European Health Insurance Card.

Social welfare and benefits

The Cypriot system of social welfare provides a range of benefits to people living and working in Cyprus, provided that they meet the required conditions. One essential condition of which Turkish Cypriot workers must be aware is that benefits are only granted to eligible persons who are permanent residents in areas under the effective control of the Republic of Cyprus.

Commentary

In its attempt to fight racism and discrimination, INEK-PEO has published three further guides focusing on vulnerable groups, and providing information and support to the victims of discrimination. These documents refer to three different target groups – namely, European migrants, young workers and third country nationals (CY0907019I).

In the framework of the PROGRESS programme, ΙΝΕΚ-PΕΟ has also created an internet portal called ‘Stop discrimination’, which acts as a reference website for combating racism and discrimination. The portal contains information on the subject in the Greek, Turkish and English languages, along with some information and texts in other languages. It is regularly updated and has a section for people to exchange views and engage in dialogue. Activities and events against racism and discrimination are also highlighted.

Polina Stavrou, Cyprus Labour Institute (INEK-PEO)

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