Water authority workers stage 24-hour strike
In September 2006, the Local Authority Workers’ and Employees’ Trade Union, affiliated to the Pancyprian Federation of Labour, called a 24-hour strike in protest against a change in the terms and conditions of employment for some employees of the Water Board in the capital city, Nicosia. The amendment was introduced without a collective decision and thus violates the agreement in the sector.
In September 2006, the Local Authority Workers’ and Employees’ Trade Union (Συντεχνία Ημικρατικών, Δημοτικών και Κοινοτικών Εργατοϋπαλλήλων Κύπρου, SIDIΚΕΚ), affiliated to the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (Παγκύπρια Εργατική Ομοσπονδία, PΕΟ), called a 24-hour strike in protest against a change in the terms and conditions of employment for some of the employees at the Water Board in the capital city, Nicosia (Lefkosia). The change in question was introduced without the agreement of staff.
SIDIKEK called on workers from all of the Water Boards – in Lefkosia, Limassol (Lemesos) and Larnaca (Larnaka) in the south of the island, and Famagusta (Ammochostos) in the northeast of Cyprus – to take part in the strike, scheduled to take place on 12 September 2006, regardless of their particular union membership. The total number of permanent staff in the District Water Boards currently amounts to around 350 people.
According to SIDIKEK, the decision to call a 24-hour strike resulted from the violation of the collective labour agreement (SSE) for the Water Boards, which came into effect in 2001. More specifically, in an announcement issued on 30 August 2006, SIDIKEK reiterated its refusal to accept a mediation proposal by the Ministry of Labour and Social Insurance (Υπουργείου Εργασίας και Κοινωνικών Ασφαλίσεων, MLSI) and demanded the reinstatement of the three-year SSE for 2001–2003.
Memorandum of Agreement
On 25 June 2003, as part of the implementation of the SSE for 2001–2003, SIDIKEK-PEO and the Federation of Semi-State Organisations (Ομοσπονδία Σωματείων Ημικρατικών Οργανισμών, ΟIΟ), affiliated to the Cyprus Workers’ Confederation (Συνομοσπονδία Εργαζομένων Κύπρου, SΕΚ), signed a Memorandum of Agreement. In the memorandum, the trade unions and the employer side committed to hold discussions and decide, within six months, on setting the new terms and conditions of employment for newly-hired staff, taking into account the existing terms and conditions of employment and government regulations.
However, according to SIDIKEK, no agreement was reached during the consultations that were subsequently held because the Water Boards insisted on implementing the government pay scales already in force and applicable to government staff paid on an hourly basis. Thus, the employer – in this instance, the government – changed the terms and conditions of employment and violated the memorandum, without a collective decision by all the organisations involved.
Ministry mediation proposal
In this context, SIDIKEK, in an address on 1 June 2005, released itself from its obligation to hold further discussions aimed at setting new terms and conditions of employment for newly-hired staff. At the same time, SIDIKEK demanded the implementation of the existing SSE. The trade union communicated its decision to OIO-SEK, which decided instead to apply to the MLSI, asking the ministry to mediate to resolve the labour dispute between the parties involved, namely the Water Boards and the two unions OIO-SEK and SIDIKEK-PEO.
On 7 June 2006, the Water Boards, along with OIO-SEK, decided to accept the MLSI mediation proposal, but it was rejected by SIDIKEK. After attempting to re-enter consultations for the purpose of changing the new terms and conditions of employment, SIDIKEK decided to resort to strike action.
SIDIKEK rejects proposal
Specifically, SIDIKEK rejects the MLSI proposal for several reasons, namely because:
- it considerably reduces the wages of newly-hired employees;
- it converts seven categories of newly-hired staff into hourly-paid staff and makes significant changes to their terms and conditions of employment;
- newly-hired staff are not covered by the healthcare scheme of the Water Boards;
- no career advancement rights are laid down for existing staff.
Moreover, SIDIKEK believes that, although so far the decision to implement the MLSI mediation proposal involves only the Water Board of Lefkosia, the other regional Boards appear ready to make a similar decision, thereby violating the SSE.
Eva Soumeli, INEK/PEO