Cyprus Mail
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Our View: It’s often hard to distinguish union behaviour from protection rackets

SOMETIMES it is difficult to distinguish union behaviour from protection rackets. This is particularly true of the unions of the public and banking sectors which have negotiated privileges for their members that any rational person would have thought were secured by threats of violence.

How for instance could any sane person have agreed that any losses incurred from investments by SGO pension funds would be covered by the state? But guaranteeing pension payments of all workers, regardless of the performance of the pension fund, was agreed by government and approved by the parties. There is also a law provision which states that if positions in a semi-governmental organisation were closed down the workers holding those positions could not be made redundant; they were entitled to stay at the organisation and be paid for being unproductive.

Of course the unions never had to threaten violence or blackmail to secure these privileges. All they had to do was turn a blind eye to the incompetence or corruption of the party apparatchiks running their organisations and they would have all their demands satisfied, with the blessing of the political parties which would do anything for votes. It was governments which agreed to the long list of scandalous privileges and they were approved by the parties in the legislature.

But what was the excuse of the boards and executives of the banks for granting unheard of privileges to their employees? They were not after votes, but they still allowed the bank employees union ETYK to dictate, apart from unjustified annual pay rises, the banks opening hours as well as who would be promoted. Having called the shots for decades, ETYK’s boss Loizos Hadjicostis is not prepared to relinquish his power. And he wants his power financed by the banks.

He is currently demanding, in order to agree to pay cuts at the banks (only the Bank of Cyprus has cut wages), four per cent of their monthly payroll to go into a union solidarity fund to help jobless bank employees. This is extortion. In effect, the union wants to set up a charity by blackmailing the banks into paying for it through the pay negotiations. Again, the banks have only themselves to blame, for allowing this ruthless bully – the biggest cheerleader of the man who destroyed Laiki, Andreas Vgenopoulos – to build so much power. A bank even paid his senior manager’s salary which is also an outrage.

As long as nobody stands up to union bosses like Hadjicostis, Hadjipetrou et al and they are allowed to maintain their protection rackets there is little hope for the economy ever being put on a sound and healthy basis.

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