By Evie Andreou
Archaeological sites and museums remained closed islandwide for half an hour on Friday morning due to short work stoppage by more than 1,500 hourly-paid state shift workers.
Employees at public hospitals, museums, archaeological sites and at social welfare services staged the work stoppage between 11.30am and noon to protest against the “unjust decision” of the government and the parliament on low compensation for working on public holidays, arguing that they essentially worked without any benefits.
The issue has been under discussion between the employees’ unions and the joint labour committee of the ministry of finance since last January. Unions ask that the government tables a proposal for a reasonable settlement of the issue, warning that they will not hesitate to escalate measures.
PASYEK PEO union’s general secretary Michalis Archontides told the Cyprus Mail that the hourly-paid staff receive low salaries as it is and in addition they are forced to work on public holidays and receive as extra compensation around one third of their daily salary.
If a person’s hourly salary is €7, he said, they will receive an extra sum on the realm of around €20 for the holiday they worked on. He said that until 2014, hourly-paid staff were getting half their daily salary when they were called in to work on holidays, but rates were reduced following general government austerity measures.
“And on top of everything, it is no loner a matter of choice. Due to the understaffing of these services, hourly-paid workers are forced to work on almost every holiday, as there are not enough people to meet the needs of each service,” Archontides said.
In the past, staff members would work around three holidays per year, but now they are forced to work 12, he said.
He said that the unions have no concrete proposal but that they are open to suggestions as regards “an agreement that will not affect the state’s finances”.
“We hope that the official side would see the issue and come up with specific recommendations for a reasonable settlement that would meet the needs of the employees,” Archontides said. He added that when they raised the issue, the government “seemed to recognise our rightful demand”.
He said that arrangements were made, to avoid any problems during the stoppage.
A health ministry spokesperson told the Cyprus Mail that no public inconvenience was reported in state hospitals during the short work stoppage.