Speech by Sοtiroulla Charalampous, General Secretary of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) Cyprus Workers Delegate 112th Session of the ILCGeneva, June 2024

Mr President,

Dear Colleagues,

Ladies and Gentlemen

The 112th International Labour Conference takes place at a time when humanity is in a state of shock, by the genocide being perpetrated in Gaza against the Palestinian people.

The effort to exterminate an entire people cannot be labelled a right to self-defence.  So, from the platform of the ILC conference, we want once again to express our support to the Palestinian people and demand a full and permanent end to the war, as well as a solution to the Palestinian problem based on the relevant UN resolutions.

The data presented in the Director-General’s report to the 112th Session of the ILO International Conference, confirms that, in recent decades, economic and social inequalities have widened and become even deeper throughout the world.  In 2023, some 700 million people around the world were living below the extreme poverty line and nearly 7% of the workers were working poor . Globalisation has not led to fairer and more equitable development, nor to prosperity for all.

This situation is the result of the economic policies that were deliberately and consciously implemented by international organisations such as the World Bank and the IMF, and the dominant political powers both at regional and local level. The successive crises of the system have been met with a full-frontal attack on wages and workers’ rights, as well as with a reduction in state intervention in public investment and  cuts on social spending.  Today, the workers’ income is under attacked again due to high inflation. In the process of promoting these policies, the rights to organise in a trade union, to collective bargaining and to strike were also attacked, to weaken the scope and role of the trade union movement.

In my country, Cyprus, a country that was considered a model in terms of regulating the terms and conditions of employment through Collective Agreements, since 2012 the collective agreement coverage has decreased from 80% to 50%, while the policies of labour devaluation and deregulation have led to the loss of more than 11 BILLION euros for the workers.

To the workers’ ears, when we talk about a “renewed social contract”, it might sound like a meaningless slogan, unless it is accompanied by concrete policies and decisions that will change the economic and labour model.

Such decisions are: 

  • To end strict fiscal rules that restrict public investment in key sectors of the economy, as well as in social spending.
  • To tax wealth and excess profits, using the revenues to support vulnerable groups of the population and poor countries in general.
  • To take measures for safe and dignified work. This presupposes clear, binding regulations on working hours, decent wages based on the cost of living, the use of new technologies to improve the quality of work, investments in health and safety, and the promotion of equality.
  • To restore collective agreements as the main tool for regulating employment conditions and to take effective measures against those employers who deny the workers the right to organise in trade unions.
  • To end actions taken against the right to strike.

These are the priorities of our organisation’s actions at a local level. 

There can be no renewed social contract as long as the same policies continue. The wealth produced in every country is the result  of the work of workers and only if this wealth is shared fairly we can speak of a fair and more just world.