By Angelos Anastasiou
Protesting employees at the British Sovereign Base Areas (SBA) in Cyprus say they will settle for no less than the full withdrawal of wage-cutting measures, but that is not on the table, a spokesman told the Cyprus Mail on Monday.
Cypriot employees at the bases launched a five-day warning strike on Monday, in protest of a British government decision to impose pay cuts on incomes over €1,500 per month, effective September 1.
The bases said they would be implementing staggered cuts – employees earning less than €1,500 a month, around a quarter of staff, would not be subjected to a wages cut. For instance, 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.
Civil servants’ union PASYDY rep Antonis Maratheftis said some of the employees could face a cut of up to 17.5 per cent.
“It’s good that salaries up to €1,500 will be untouched,” Maratheftis said.
“But there are people here who earn €4,000 or €5,000, and they stand to lose €600 to €800 per month. And in terms of their provident fund, which is calculated on the basis of their last salary before retirement, they could lose anywhere from €40,000 to €70,000.”
SEK-PEO union rep Christos Tziapouras said “the employer can’t just nullify the existing agreements so that [British employees] can receive increments because they have incurred a financial benefit to their country”.
“We are only asking that they honour their signatures on the agreements they signed,” he added.
Tziapouras said the protest will move to the British High Commission in Nicosia, where a memo will be submitted to the High Commissioner.
Some 1,300 Cypriots are employed at the SBAs which have been asked by the MoD to make €5.2mln in savings across the board on operations in Cyprus. More than half of this sum has been found in various cuts, but the remainder has to come from the wage bill.
“Negotiations are not open about the cuts,” SBA spokesman Sean Tully said.
“We can talk about where we might cut from – for instance, the unions might want to keep salaries intact but lose the 13th salary benefit.”
But the unionists now flatly reject any negotiation, despite PASYDY having announced on Friday that they had “tabled suggestions for discussion”.
“Negotiate – negotiate what?” said Maratheftis.
“If they cut money from the wage bill, employees are still going to lose money. It’s not like they are asking for a one-off €50 – or even €500 – contribution. They want permanent cuts.”
A solution to the impasse seems very unlikely at this point, especially as base authorities consider the remuneration packages offered – even after the cuts – extremely generous.
“Employees are paid CoLA and a13th salary, and they get to go home at 1.30 pm,” said Tully.
“This is certainly a regrettable situation, but the money is not there to negotiate – we can only negotiate where the cuts will be made.”
By Angelos Anastasiou