Cyprus: Latest working life developments – Q1 2017

The working conditions of lifeguards and the framework agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the public servants’ trade union on the State payroll are the main topics of interest in this article. This country update reports on the latest developments in working life in Cyprus in the first quarter of 2017.

Lifeguards threaten strike action

The long-standing issues affecting lifeguards’ working conditions have resurfaced as the summer season looms. The most important are:

  • working schedules;
  • understaffing;
  • unsuitable lifeguard towers;
  • a shortage of rescue equipment;
  • outdated rescue equipment.

On 21 March, a general assembly of lifeguards held in Limassol gave 15 days’ notice before taking steps to begin dialogue with the authorities. In February, the lifeguards had submitted their demands in writing to both the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of the Interior. However, Giorgos Constantinou, General Secretary of the Federation of Government, Military and Civil Services Workers (OEKDY), part of the Confederation of Cyprus Workers (SEK), said neither ministry had responded.

With the summer season approaching, Mr Constantinou said the lives of bathers were in the hands of the authorities and called for them to take immediate action to resolve the lifeguards’ problems.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior said the ministry had already authorised local authorities to hire additional personnel and to start procuring the necessary equipment.

On 27 March, the Interior Committee of the House of Representatives discussed the issue. It heard from the social partners and discussed the bills prepared by its MP member, Kyriacos Hadjiyiannis. The Ministry of the Interior’s spokesperson announced, at the same time, that the Ministry had just started preparing a bill, similar to those of Mr Hadjiyiannis, for the regulation of lifeguards’ working conditions, which would be ready by the end of April.

On 6 April, a meeting of all the stakeholders was held at the Ministry of Finance where talks began on the government’s bill. On 12 April, the Cabinet approved the hiring of 12 extra seasonal lifeguards by municipalities and communities to cover their immediate needs. As reported during an interview with Michalis Archontides, General Secretary of the Pancyprian Government and Military Workers Trade Union (PASYEK-PEO), the bill is expected to be submitted to the Interior Committee for discussion by the end of April or unions will call a strike.

Framework agreement on the State payroll for 2017–2018

On 6 February, the Ministry of Finance and the Pancyprian Trade Union of Public Servants (PASYDI) reached a framework agreement for the regulation of the State payroll for 2017 and 2018. Both parties stated their satisfaction with the positive conclusion of the bargaining. The Minister of Finance, Charis Georgiades, stated that the framework agreement ensures the viability of the public finances and specifically the State payroll. Glafcos Hatjipetrou, the General Secretary of PASYDI, said he was completely satisfied with the framework agreement as a product of social dialogue.

The major provision of the agreement is the introduction of a new calculating mechanism linking pay increases in the State payroll with gross national product (GNP). This provides that the percentage increase of the wage cost will not exceed the percentage increase of the GNP. The agreement also sets out:

  • a freeze on general salary increases for 2017 and 2018;
  • incremental salary increases for 2017 and 2018;
  • a draft bill, within the framework of the general policy, restraining public sector employment levels in the public sector;
  • emerging needs for vacancies will be evaluated on quarterly basis;
  • some improvement in the way in which overtime and shift allowances are calculated;
  • debate on the abolition of some permanent vacancies in the public sector.

Commentary

It is generally recognised by the stakeholders involved that the framework agreement regulates the current functional capacities of State services without increasing employment and prevents massive recruitment, which previously badly affected public finances. For trade unions, the agreement is important because it has emerged through the established social dialogue procedures and despite previous initiatives by the government to regulate public servants’ working conditions unilaterally by legislative means.

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