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Our View: Protests and strike only work when you’re a public servant

LEFT-WING PEO yesterday announced a ‘wave of protests’ against austerity from now until March next year with fiery words and warnings of mass mobilisations.
It will do them no good, even if the events go ahead. There have been mass protests against austerity and the troika in many parts of Europe but apart from some inconveniences and a bit of trouble, reforms have proceeded and governments have not been swayed.

PEO should realise by now that only way the government will listen to your demands in Cyprus is if you are a civil servant and have the power to bring the country to its knees and take the public hostage into the bargain.

We witnessed this when the government tried to tax public servants’ retirement lump sums. A whiff of a strike and a week later, the palace backed down.
In the past week or so, another two civil servant unions have staged strikes to press their demands – teachers and doctors. Both professions – two of the most spoiled branches of civil servicedom – tried to force their demands in a language their respective bosses could understand – inconveniencing voters.
“The strike doesn’t hurt the minister but it hurts patients,” Health Minister Philippos Patsalis correctly noted. But what was worse was that their antics worked, as they always do.

After the teachers’ strike, Education Minister Costas Kadis invited the teachers to negotiations.

Worse, even after the doctors’ union snubbed him a day after they went on strike by not showing up to a scheduled meeting, Patsalis, instead of telling them to take a hike and that the NHS would be implemented any way in which the government deemed fit, went and invited the doctors back to the table.

Obviously, dialogue is the only way for such issues to be resolved and the input of doctors for instance in the NHS could be valuable, but instead they first resort to blackmail to secure their own interests and forget that they are basically employees with a responsibility to the public that comes with their title.

Inconveniencing the parents of thousands of children and disrupting hospital patients have to be two of the lowest forms of protest, and their employer – the government – by constantly giving in, just gives them the incentive to strike again at the drop of a hat. The state just appears weak and pathetic when ministers keep pleading with unions to go back to the table.

What will happen when the privatisation of semi-government bodies gets underway? It will be the public who will suffer yet again, sitting in the dark with no internet, while CyTA and EAC employees push to keep their privileges, which were far too great in the first place.

The government needs to stop pandering to civil servants who have the advantage of holding the public hostage to get what they want, take a stand against their employees and find some way to penalise them for their antics.

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