Public hospital employees strike over working hours
In December 2006, staff paid on an hourly basis in public hospitals held a two-hour token work stoppage, protesting over what they consider to be a refusal by the government to implement a regulation of the 2004–2006 collective labour agreement.
On 13 December 2006, public hospital employees who are paid on an hourly basis stopped work for two hours, in protest against the government’s refusal to implement a regulation of the 2004–2006 collective labour agreement.
According to the civil, military and public servants’ trade union organisations – namely, the Federation of Government, Military and Civil Services Workers, affiliated to the Cyprus Workers’ Confederation (OEKDY–SEK) and PASYEK, affiliated to the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PASYEK–PEO) – the 2004–2006 collective labour agreement explicitly provides for the implementation of a five-day working week for all hourly paid government staff. In accordance with the agreement, this measure should have been brought into effect by 1 January 2006 at the latest. This particular collective agreement was ratified by the Council of Ministers and applies to the lowest paid staff in the public sector, who are the only ones still working a six-day week.
In light of the government’s refusal to observe its agreement, and despite the trade union movement’s attempts to find the most efficient solution to the economic impasse created by the government, both OEKDY–SEK and PASYEK–PEO noted in a statement issued on 12 December 2006 that the responsibility for avoiding a strike lies solely with the government, specifically the Ministry of Finance.
Both organisations estimate that around 2,000 employees took part in the work stoppage on 13 December 2006: this number represents practically all hourly paid staff employed in state hospitals, including mental health services. However, following an appeal from the trade unions, hourly paid staff working in emergency departments did not take part in the stoppage in the interests of public health.
In a communication addressed to the Chair of the Joint Committee of the Ministry of Finance on 4 December 2006, the two trade union organisations stated that the purpose of the work stoppage was merely to serve as a warning. In other words, if the government did not proceed to implement the agreement immediately, industrial action would culminate in a 24-hour strike by staff in hospitals and other areas affected by the agreement; this encompasses welfare offices, including a limited number of hourly paid staff in the Department of Antiquities and the Ministry of Defence.
Eva Soumeli, Cyprus Labour Institute (INEK/PEO)