By Constantinos Psillides
ANY employer who refuses to pay employees a 13th salary is committing a criminal offence and can be taken to court, said Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou on Monday.
Responding to a report by the CyBC, where a ministry official was quoted saying that all employers are obliged to pay employees a 13th salary, the minister said that there is legislation addressing that problem so not paying employees is a criminal offence.
“The 13th salary is a salary and not paying salaries is forbidden by law,” Emilianidou added.
The minister clarified, however, that if there is a contract between the employer and the employee, where both parties agreed on not paying a 13th salary, then the law is not applicable.
“We need to protect workers. They need to be informed about their rights and most important of all how to claim them,” she said.
Emilianidou said that making sure that employers pay the 13th salary is a part of a two-year government plan to deal with the financial crisis, which the minister said will be formulated after a social dialogue.
“We agreed to talk about all the issues that are not covered by the collective agreements. Our goal is not to decrease workers rights but to insure them,” the minister said.
House labour committee chairman, AKEL MP Andreas Fakontis also agreed that not paying the 13th salary is an offence, calling upon all employers to conform with the law.
The politicians’ words are unlikely to make employers fulfill their obligations however. Thousands of workers in the private sector have not been paid their 13th salaries for several years now and are unlikely to take legal action against their employers for fear of losing their jobs.
Paying the 13th salary is currently a hot topic in the public sector. On Thursday, DISY leader Averof Neophytou is expected to present parliamentary party leaders with his proposal to cut three per cent off the public sector employees’ 13th salary.
The idea was tabled first by House president Yiannakis Omirou, who also suggested that the money collected be given to needy families as a Christmas bonus.
Opposition party AKEL rejected the proposal, while Neofytou asked for a week to prepare a proposal. According to DISY MP Nicos Nouris, who spoke on behalf of Neophytou last Thursday, the proposal will depend on the support it gets from other parliamentary parties.