‘MASS popular uprising’ was how the AKEL mouthpiece Haravghi headlined its report about the demonstration by unions, mainly of public sector workers, planned for December 14. It was a totally misleading headline as the protest against the “the harsh austerity of the troika and all those who align themselves with its diktats” was neither an uprising nor mass in the strict sense of the word.
A more accurate headline would have been ‘Public sector fat cats are revolting’ because apart from pensioners, the main participants in the demonstration would be state school teachers, semi-government workers, farmers and students. The mass popular uprising would be made up of the second highest-paid teachers in the EU, grossly overpaid SGO workers, the state-subsidised farmers and students who are provided with a completely free education.
In Cyprus, the land of irrationality, it is the privileged, over-paid, over-protected and over-fed workers with total job security that take to the streets protesting about the austerity measures that have barely touched them. All that matters is their personal wellbeing and they do not give a second’s thought to the tens of thousands of long-term unemployed and impoverished families depending on hand-outs by charities to survive.
Those whose lives have been wrecked by the collapse of the economy appear to have been air-brushed out of our society, their wellbeing an irrelevance compared to that of the public sector fat-cats.
It is strange that the labour aristocracy of Pasydy would not be joining the mass uprising of the privileged, but they performed their uprising a little earlier. Pasydy members had organised their own uprising – a work stoppage that was called off as a mark of respect to Glafcos Clerides – in protest against the proposal for a three per cent cut to 13th salaries. The money saved would have gone to low income groups, according to House president Yiannakis Omirou, who made the proposal, but as the Pasydy boss said, it was unjust that his members were the only people being asked to make sacrifices.
This is propaganda that Goebbels would have been proud of, but Glafcos Hadjipetrou has been getting away with it because nobody dares to challenge him. The biggest pay cut imposed on civil servants was in the region of 15 per cent for the highest paid and this included a contribution to social insurance, which was still half the percentage private sector employees paid, and 1.5 per cent contribution for healthcare. The devious Hadjipetrou also includes the automatic pay rises civil servants were entitled to and did not receive because of the freeze imposed by the government, to claim that his members had suffered cuts of as much as 30 per cent.
The truth is that the maximum pay cut suffered by teachers, SGO workers and other public sector employees was in the region of 15 per cent and this included social insurance contributions. This is nothing compared to the sacrifices private sector workers have had to make. Apart from earning wages that were, on average, 40 per cent lower than in the public sector, they suffered pay cuts of between 20 and 50 per cent and in most businesses suspension of 13th salary. There are many who are owed two or three months’ wages, but do not protest because this is still better than being jobless. What is the value of job security that is guaranteed to the moaning public sector fat cats?
These points need to be made because the labour aristocrats are setting the agenda and are affecting political thinking. It was astonishing that the DISY spokesman on Friday said that his party was preparing a proposal that envisaged all employees making a contribution to a fund that would help low-income groups and the unemployed. Presumably the idea is to make everyone contribute so that the labour aristocrats do not repeat the big lie that they were being exclusively burdened with the cost of the recession. It seems the only people who are heard in Cyprus are those who take to the streets, threaten strikes, make a noise and falsely claim victimhood.
Vulnerable groups should be supported by the state but the money should be raised exclusively by additional public sector pay cuts and not touch private sector workers who have been hit the hardest by the recession. The pampered public employees’ whose wages, pensions and benefits bankrupted the state and made it unable to offer any support to the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society must pick up the bill for any proposed welfare measures. This is now a moral imperative.