Cleaners at the Nicosia general hospital went on an impromptu work stoppage on Tuesday morning to protest over their inability to take leave due to understaffing, they said.
Around 80 cleaners at the hospital downed tools at around 6.30am asking for a solution to be found for their accumulated leave, which they said they can’t take as there is not enough staff to man the shifts. The work stoppage ended four hours later following the intervention of Heath Minister Constantinos Ioannou, who went at the hospital.
Ioannou, who also met trade union representatives, said however that there is no staff shortage and there would be no problem if there weren’tso many people on sick leave.
“There are too many on sick leave, which burdens the rest of the staff. With the staff as they are now, they are unable to go on leave,” Ioannou said.
The problem of sick leave, he said was “a scourge especially in the health sector”.
He added that a number of measures would be taken.
The minister was also briefed on other problems faced by hospital staff.
He said that after all problems faced in state hospitals are recorded the aim was to find viable solutions.
This is the third work stoppage by state hospital cleaners in the last six months over staff shortages. Last month cleaners at Nicosia’s Archbishop Makarios III hospital went on a work stoppage which was interrupted after they received reassurances more staff would be hired, and last December, Limassol general hospital’s cleaners also downed tools over the same problem.
The abuse by civil servants of their sick leave is not uncommon, leading to many state services facing staff shortages during the absence of their colleagues.
Cyprus had the highest levels of paid sick leave in 2015 across the EU according to Eurostat figures.
According to the figures, the share of total social benefits spent on paid sick leave was 8.5 per cent in Cyprus, more than double the EU average, which stood at 3.6 per cent.
A bill providing for stringent rules concerning workers taking unjustified long-term sick leave was put on ice some two years ago.