Cyprus Mail

Green light to strike over British bases pay cuts

By Jean Christou

Unions representing Cypriot staff working at the British bases have been given the green light by members to strike in September over planned pay cuts.

Christos Chapouras from SEK union told the Cyprus Mail on Friday that members in Larnaca had voted on Wednesday to strike, and those in Limassol had voted on Thursday. “We are also waiting for legal advice on July 10 on how to proceed,” he said.

This legal move is focused on what he called the violation of the bases authorities of a 2013 written agreement between the sides made in the presence of the labour minister affirming that no changes would be made to terms and conditions of employment of bases staff unless agreed through negotiations. “It’s in writing,” said Chapouras. “We agreed to a pay freeze.”

He said Cypriot staff at the bases have not had a pay increment since, while UK staff have received 1 per cent per year pay rise for the past three years.  “We have suffered from the crisis in the UK and now they are taking advantage of the crisis in the Republic,” Chapouras said.

“And now they come and tell us they have difficulties. It is a violation of our collective agreement.”

According to bases spokesman Sean Tully, some 1,300 Cypriots are employed at the SBAs.  Tully said the bases had been given a mandate by the UK ministry of defence to make €5.2m in savings across the board on operations in Cyprus.

“We made many savings including cutting the school bus service for the children. We cut the buses before reducing the wages of local staff. We can’t find any more [cuts] so there is to be a pay reduction for local employees,” Tully told the Cyprus Mail on Friday.

“We have been discussing with the unions on how to achieve savings but we failed to agree.”

Tully said the bases would be implementing what he called “stepped reductions”. He said any bases employee earning less than €1,500 a month would not be subjected to a wages cut. This was around a quarter of staff, he added. For instance, he said a person earning €3,000 a month would probably see a cut of around 6.5 per cent or €195 a month, in line with public service cuts in the Republic. Around three quarters of staff would see reductions. Tully added that the husbands and wives of UK personnel who work on the bases would also see a pay cut. Total savings from wage cuts aim to be in the region of €1.8m.

Tully also said it was the first time any wage cuts were made by the bases since the crisis, unlike  everywhere else in the Republic.  “We have not made anyone redundant,” he said.  He also said the bases offered a generous employment package and genuinely valued their Cypriot employees.  Tully said the bases were now awaiting notification from the unions on possible strike action.



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