By Andria Kades
SEK, PEO and DEOK held a demonstration in Nicosia on Tuesday after claiming hotel staff would work six 12-13 hour shifts a week for €500-€600 a month as they fear if they object they will lose their jobs.
They also said people have not been paid for three years and have not received provident fund payments.
“The situation cannot be tolerated anymore. The system is outdated and this applies to all hotels – from small to big,” general secretary of PEO’s Hotel and Catering Establishment Employee’s Trade Union Lefteris Georgiades said.
Employees from the three unions marched from SEK’s building in Nicosia to the labour ministry and parliament, where they handed over a resolution.
Unions claimed that the presence of riot police (MMAD) incited violence. Demonstrators had earlier broken through a line of the police officers holding shields.
Next week, unions are expected to meet with Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou to find a solution while House President Yiannakis Omirou said he was committed to reviewing their submission in detail.
“Our main goal is for institutions to have respectable contracts and implement regulations to protect staff,” Georgiades added saying that if a solution was not reached there would be strikes in the summer months.
However, hoteliers said they were not aware of problems. “We are not aware of any complaints,” Director General of the Cyprus Hotel Association Zacharias Ioannides said even though unions held similar protests last week.
“We did not violate collective agreements and can not understand why there are such reactions,” the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises (ETEK)’s Chrisemily Psilogeni Kenevezou said in a statement.
She added it was unfair that the industry was getting such a negative reputation after it made strong efforts to boost tourism.
Last week the unions complained that both employers and the labour ministry were indifferent to the employees’ grievances and that in the last few years hundreds of hotel employees covered by contracts had been fired under various pretences only to be replaced by people on lower salaries.
They also said that hoteliers utilise the EU’s Erasmus and Da Vinci educational programmes to bring students from abroad as trainees on no salary, or pay them as little as €200 to €300 to fill up actual job positions.
Following a meeting with the unions, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou announced that next week she is to start a dialogue with all interested parties of the hotel industry to restore relations between employees and employers and ensure the employees’ rights.