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Our View: Presidential pandering to unions is scuppering much-needed reforms

CyTA unions are demanding permanent employment by law for its members

WHENEVER President Anastasiades intervenes in a dispute between the unions and the government, it is almost certain that it will be resolved in favour of the former.

Strikes at semi-governmental organisations (SGO), state schools and state hospitals have regularly been averted by the direct intervention of the president who simply satisfies the demands of the unions. It was the reason why a health minister resigned a few weeks ago and why reform of the discredited, old appointment system for teachers was put back for another decade.

Anastasiades, with his populist weakness, is considered a soft touch by the union bosses – the man they can always rely on to come to their rescue and satisfy the demands his ministers had rejected. He always goes for the easy option, which minimises criticism and, he believes, makes him more popular. In this respect he is very similar to his predecessor, who at least had an ideological excuse for giving in to the unions.

It was therefore no surprise that five CyTA unions that did not approve of the workers’ scheme for the authority’s privatisation prepared by the finance ministry wrote directly to the president seeking his assistance. Anastasiades did not disappoint them. It was reported yesterday that approval of the CyTA bill by the Council of Ministers, scheduled for Wednesday, would be put back a week to give the president the opportunity to meet the union bosses and discuss their reservations and objections to the bill.

What can there be to discuss, given that the bill not only offers CyTA workers employment in the public sector – on the same pay scale – but also gives them the opportunity to work for the privatised telecommunications company for a year, before they decide whether they want to carry on working there? It also guarantees their big pension payments, the bill for which, scandalously, would be picked up by the taxpayer.

Once he heard the additional ‘safeguards’ the unions are seeking, the president should have refused to see them. Among other things, they want the private company to hire them with the status of public servants, they want to be guaranteed permanent employment by law and for the same pension rights to be extended to staff regardless of years of service at CyTA. There is a strong possibility Anastasiades would agree to these ludicrous demands in order to get the unions off his back, with the risk that no investor would be interested in buying Cyta.

But it seems satisfying the unions is the main priority, even if it means guaranteeing permanent employment, top wages and pensions to workers for decades after their employer has ceased to exist.

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