Statement after the session of the General Council of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO)

Statement after the session of the General Council of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO)

14 March 2023

The General Council of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) convened on Tuesday 14/3/2023 and assessed the organizational plan of PEO for 2022, setting out the objectives for 2023. It also discussed the situation surrounding key labour and socio-economic issues as it has evolved.

The neoliberal policies implemented by the Anastasiades government over the past decade have led to an unprecedented shift of incomes from labour to profits, the deregulation of labour relations, the reduction in the scope of collective agreements and for that reason to a reduction in the percentage of trade union organisation. The outgoing government made sure, shortly before handing over power, to satisfy even more employers’ positions with its decisions on the issue of employing workers from third countries.

The newly elected government under Nikos Christodoulides won’t be granted a period of grace as far as the major issues workers are facing is concerned, which were discussed in detail and at length during the preceding election campaign.

The new Labour Minister needs to take immediate action on the issue of the Cost of Living Allowance COLA. We workers are not prepared to let time pass by without the conclusion of a new agreement.   The new government must put forward a proposal to deliver COLA based on its philosophy as set out in the Transitional Agreement.  

The previous government’s decision on the criteria for employing workers from third countries should be withdrawn and a meaningful dialogue on a strategy for employing workers from third countries should commence where the key criterion for granting approval will be the application of the COLA to cover all workers. If this is not adopted and the consideration of applications under the new criteria continues, then there will be a strong reaction from working people in the affected sectors.

An immediate initiative must also be taken by the new Minister of Labour to develop a comprehensive roadmap for measures and policies leading to the extension of the coverage of collective agreements as is the obligation and according to the relevant European directive.  Priority must be given to the introduction of regulations to make the application of the basic terms of sectoral agreements mandatory and to amendments to the minimum wage decree, with the aim of making it an effective framework for guaranteeing minimum rights for workers who are unprotected by trade unions.

Increases in the prices of essential goods and services, as well as rising interest rates have brought households in Cyprus to their knees. The General Council of PEO reiterates some of the proposals it has long advocated to address expensiveness/price hikes:

  • Full reinstatement of the COLA and its extension to cover all workers.
  • Measures to support pensioners on low pensions.
  • Revision of housing policy by broadening the criteria to cover a larger section of society and increasing subsidies for all housing projects.
  • End double taxation on fuel.
  • Reduce VAT and impose a cap on essential goods.
  • Increase social benefits.

The National Health Scheme (GESY) is a major social achievement for the implementation of which PEO has struggled for. As there are from time to time methodical attacks aimed at changing the philosophy of the GESY and serving private interests, PEO reiterates that it will consistently defend the character of GESY. Changes and improvements need to be made and this is where the government must contribute.  Particular attention must be paid by the government to public hospitals so that in practice they function as the backbone of the GESY.

We also point out the need for a comprehensive progressive modernisation of the pension system that includes abolishing the 12% penalty [on those choosing to retire at 63] and ensuring adequate, dignified pensions for all.

The organisational results achieved by PEO for the past year, taking into account the conditions in which our mechanisms developed their activity, are considered to be satisfactory since the organisational goals that were set were fulfilled.

It is very encouraging that in 2022 approximately 7,000 new members were organized within the ranks of PEO

In the current conditions, the strengthening of our Organisation remains a top priority for our Federation. Towards this end, the General Council of PEO considers the intensification of our organizational work in 2023 too as very important with the goal of organizing new enterprises and at the same time exhausting all possibilities for mass organisational growth within the already organized enterprises.

The consistent and steadfast defence of collective agreements and workers’ rights, the strengthening of our contacts with working people in the workplaces are essential elements for our organisational strengthening, an indispensable task necessary for the fulfillment of our assertive goals.