By Peter Stevenson
ONLY a day before Christmas Eve, hundreds of people by yesterday had not seen a penny of their 13th salaries, and in many cases, several months’ worth of wages.
The labour ministry said it has been inundated with calls from people who have been unpaid for months, and also from those who have not, and will not receive a 13th salary this year.
Andreas Mylonas, the director of the department of labour relations at the ministry told the Cyprus Mail that his department receives roughly 50 calls a day regarding non-payment of both regular monthly wages, and 13th salaries.
“On many occasions we manage to come to a settlement without it having to go to court but if it does go that far, employers are liable to pay a fine and make the payments to their employees, which is why we try to resolve matters earlier,” he said.
Mylonas revealed that legal proceedings had begun against 400 employers this year who had failed to pay their staff’s wages.
“Our first move is to call the employer when a complaint is made to try to find a way for payment to be made or an arrangement to be made at least, because our main aim is for people to receive the money they are owed,” he said.
The director added the ministry could now take employers directly to court, something that was not the case previously, in order to force them to pay their employees.
“Our opinion is that it is far better if a case is resolved before it goes to court which is why we try to mediate a situation as soon as we are made aware of it.
All calls which are made regarding non-payment of salaries are done so anonymously according to an official at the ministry who told the Mail that the majority of those who call have not even discussed the matter with their employer. She said that big companies have paid their employees a 13th salary and it was the small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that were struggling to pay.
“People working in small companies or even sole employees don’t comprehend the consequences of their actions sometimes when they ask us to deal with the problem,” she said.
“Let me explain, if we call an employer and he only has two or three employees then he will know who has reported him to the labour ministry and that could anger the employer. The last thing we want is for people to lose their jobs because we have intervened”.
Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said earlier this month that any employer who refused to pay the 13th salary was committing a criminal offence and could be taken to court.
“Unfortunately some people didn’t fully understand what the labour minister meant when she said that it is illegal for an employer not to pay a 13th salary because there are certain conditions,” the ministry official said.
She said that before making calls, the public should look at their contracts, whether they have been paid a 13th salary before or whether they have signed a deal with their employer which states that they will no longer receive it.
“Our advice to people is that they speak to their employer, tell him that they understand times are tough but that they would also like some help to buy presents for Christmas and maybe they can come to some kind of arrangement. Involving the ministry can be risky but if we are asked to investigate someone we will,” she said.