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Thousands of employees hold nation-wide strike for protection of COLA

27/01/2023 07:52

Trade Unions representing over 70,000 employees in the public and private sector held  on Thursday a nation-wide strike in Cyprus, for three hours, following an impasse in the talks over the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA).

The three-hour strike, between 12:00 and 15:00 local time, was called on by the trade unions, after the dialogue between trade unions and employers with the mediation of the Minister of Labour, Kyriacos Koushos, failed to reach results. 

In the capital, Nicosia, employees gathered in front of the Ministry of Finance and then marched to the Ministry of Labour, while gatherings were held in all other main cities of the island.

In their resolution, that was handed over to the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance, the 12 trade unions  express their firm commitment to the protection of COLA and declare that they will continue to fight until it is fully restored on the basis of its purpose, as explicitly stated in the agreement of July 28, 2017.

They also express their disappointment, because, as they state, the employers side throughout the social dialogue maintained an uncompromising attitude, constantly putting forward the position for abolition of COLA "which will lead to a serious deregulation of collective labour contracts, an integral part of which is COLA".

The trade unions express their regret "because the government did not take advantage of the step made by the trade unions during the dialogue held under the auspices of the Minister of Labor and submit a mediation proposal based on the philosophy  of the transitional agreement in a specific timetable".

In their resolution, they also say that they will seek to extend the collective agreements for all employees with the aim of covering 80% of the entire labor market, as explicitly determined by the proposed relevant Directive of the European Union, which will also lead to the payment of COLA to more employees.

They urge the employer side to respect what it has signed and proceed to the dialogue in order to reach a solution. 

Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos who received the resolution by the trade unions, said that the diametrically opposed views did not allow for the submission of a mediation proposal by the government for the renewal of the agreement on the COLA.

He told trade unions that he would inform the President of the Republic of the content of the resolution and added that the trade unions know that "the Ministry of Labour made every effort to have a successful conclusion to the negotiation for the renewal of the agreement of July 28, 2017".

In her statements, General Secretary of the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) Soteroulla Charalampous said that once again the workers are called to defend one of their most important conquests, the COLA.

At the same time, she added, workers are defending the way labour relations work, noting that the employer side raised the issue of abolishing COLA, and therefore "we also defend that what we co-sign must be implemented, must be respected".

General Secretary of the Cyprus Workers Confederation (SEK) Andreas Matsas said that it is clear that the people's mass participation in the strike marks a historical moment for the Republic of Cyprus.

He went on to say that the trade union movement is united and defends the  right of workers to ensure access to COLA, and ensure the rights arising through the collective agreements.

Iosif Anastasiou, President of the Democratic Labour Federation of Cyprus (DEOK) said that COLA has always contributed to labor peace and added that  "today's strike was not a choice of the trade union movement. It was the choice of the employers and the government".

General Secretary of the Pancyprian Public Servants' Trade Union (PASYDY) Stratis Mattheou noted that it's been many years since such a general strike took place, adding that this "shows the message we want to send, which is, that the entire trade union movement, united, like a fist, wants to send a message to both the present and future generations that COLA is non-negotiable".

Leaders of seven other trade unions, OELMEK President Constantinos Constantinopoulos, POED President Myria Vasiliou, OLTEK President Panayiotis Lyssandrou, POASO President Costas Ioannou, PASYKI President Soteris Koumas, ESK President Giorgos Frangkos and SAK President Kyriakos Charalambous, representing the education sector, journalists, doctors working for the public sector, the police force and a series of many other independent trade unions, also made statements, sending the strong message that they are determined and will remain united for the protection and restoration of COLA.