The General Council of PEO convened on Monday 22nd March 2021 and discussed the situation as it is has evolved with regards labour and socio-economic issues and set out the main priorities of PEO.

The coronavirus pandemic and the health measures that have been taken for a year now have had a drastic impact on working people and society in general.

Thousands of working people are unable to work because of the restrictive measures. Others have been forced to stay home due to schools having been closed down, while others are working from home by teleworking. Small and medium-sized businesses that have remained closed for extended periods of time are being destroyed. Young people that should have entered the labour marker remain jobless.

The schemes to provide support that are currently being implemented are necessary and imperative so as to provide immediate relief to working people from the loss of their incomes they have suffered in their work. PEO all through this year acted responsibly and creatively with the aim of protecting working people’s health. At the same time, however, PEO has as its priority ensuring that the burden of the consequences of this crisis is not shifted on to working people’s backs. With its determined intervention in the social dialogue, PEO has succeeded in ensuring that the measures providing support to businesses are linked with protecting working people from arbitrary redundancies, and protecting wages and benefits.

The prolonged duration of the health crisis creates a difficult stressful environment for workers and vulnerable groups of the population with a visible danger of social inequalities widening further.

The danger of this crisis too being exploited, of fear and anxiety being used to further deregulate labour relations and degrade the value of work is visible.

In the face of this danger, which threatens the cohesion of society, the government and the coordinated state must not remain indifferent.

Measures need to be taken to protect working people’s wages and rights from the apparent new attempt to deregulate and undermine their working conditions. Measures are needed to strengthen the welfare state, support the vulnerable groups of the population and ensure a fairer distribution of the wealth produced for the benefit of the many.

In the conditions that have evolved, PEO sets the following priorities:

– Extend the introduction of institutional arrangements so that the basic terms of sectoral collective agreements become mandatory for businesses in the given sector,

– Institutionalization of a tripartite mechanism through which minimum wages and benefits will be set for those working people not covered by collective agreements.

– Safeguarding the supremacy of Collective Agreements over personal employment contracts.

– Termination of the unacceptable policy of the purchase of services in which the public and semi-public sectors unfortunately play a leading role today.

– The application of so-called “flexible” forms of employment as a means of exploiting and deregulating labor relations should be tackled. Teleworking and any arrangements that differentiate the framework of work must be the outcome of regulation within the context of collective agreements, and not lead to a downgrading of employment conditions, ensuring the right of a working person to a choice.

– A debate on the modernization of the employment policy of working people from third countries should begin immediately.

– Institutionalization of Professional Qualifications Standards.

– Effective measures must be taken to prevent sexual harassment at the workplace, including the mandatory adoption of a code against sexual harassment.

The government’s decision, which is constantly being repeated that the issue of minimum wage a will only be discussed when conditions of full employment exist, is a position that demonstrates the government’s agreement with the most reactionary neoliberal views that consider low wages, arbitrariness and deregulation as an instrument for reducing unemployment.

It is at a time of a crisis and when working people are coming under pressure that an orderly state and governments have a social responsibility to intervene actively to restore the social balance. So long as this is not done, this in reality turns governments into participants in the process of deregulation and exertion of pressures on the working people.

The second pillar of measures that urgently needs to be taken is the strengthening of the welfare state. More specifically, we consider the following as imperative:

– Immediate start of a dialogue for the abolition of the 12% penalty for those who to choose to retire at 63. Review and modernization of the social insurance system with the aim of ensuring adequate pensions and benefits.

– Introduction of a paid parental leave scheme.

– Strengthen and modernize the public health sector. Address the problems that occur in the operation of the National Health Scheme and in groups of beneficiaries, such as low-income pensioners.

– Establishment of a comprehensive network of care services for children and infants, creation of long-term care infrastructures for the elderly and disabled by the state and local authorities.

– Subsidize the cost of childcare on the basis of socio-economic criteria.

– Social housing schemes and financial subsidy programs for low-wage families to cover the cost of rents.

– Effective measures to prevent the foreclosure of primary family homes and small business premises.

The General Council of PEO in view of the upcoming informal five-party conference convened by the Secretary General of the UN on the Cyprus problem, stresses once again that for the working people of Cyprus the solution of the Cyprus problem and the reunification of our homeland and people is a primary goal, a precondition for steadfast progress and prosperity.

In order for the five-party conference to turn into an opportunity for putting an end to the barren and dangerous stagnation on the Cyprus problem, it is imperative that Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot leader abandon their positions for a two-state solution. At the same time, President Anastasiades needs to stay committed to the convergences that have been agreed so far and to the Guterres Framework. He needs to confirm in practice the Greek Cypriot side’s commitment to the solution of a Bicommunal, Bi-Zonal Federation with political equality, as set out by the Resolutions of the United Nations.

Within this framework, the Parliamentary Elections due to take place on 30th May are of special importance for the working people, for Cyprus.

It does matter for the working people and their struggles, what the balance of forces are inside Parliament. PEO is not indifferent, nor does it adopt a neutral stand in political struggles. In this battle PEO joins its forces with AKEL – Left – New Forces. A vote for AKEL – Left – New Forces means supporting that political force which has always and with consistency continues to support the struggles and demands of the working people, both inside and outside Parliament.

A vote for AKEL – Left – New Forces means strengthening the protective shield of the working people from anti-worker attacks. It means reinfor4cing the prospects for a progressive change, for a Cyprus where the wealth produced will be more equitably and socially balanced, for a Cyprus where working people will have work with regulated rights, for consistency and dedication to the struggle for the reunification of our homeland.