WORKERS of the Paphos municipality’s gardening services staged a two-hour work stoppage on Monday, protesting about the behaviour of mayor Phedonas Phedonos. According to press reports, union representatives claimed the mayor’s behaviour was not what it should have been as he treated workers in an ‘insulting’ way. No examples of this ‘insulting’ behaviour were reported.
Is allegedly rude behaviour by a manager towards staff a justification for industrial action under the industrial relations code? We doubt it in the same way we doubt there was any truth in the unions’ accusations against the mayor. The real reason for the work stoppage was the mayor’s decision to take action against three workers who had skived off work, something they had most probably done in the past with impunity.
The mayor and the head of the gardening services had visited three places of work and found three employees were not there. One was absent for more than an hour, claiming he had gone to the kiosk, the second had gone to his sister’s home for lunch, while the third said he had left for personal reasons. After this, the mayor gave instructions that an amount equivalent to the time they were not at work be deducted from the wages of the three and put disciplinary procedures in motion.
This must have come as a big shock both to the workers and their union representatives. It is normal practice for municipality workers – not just in Paphos – to skive off work and everyone is at it because no action is taken against them. It has become something of a workers’ conquest for municipal employees. This is why the unions took strike action – to defend the workers’ ‘right’ to skive off work whenever they choose.
Well done to Phedonos for refusing to tolerate this unacceptable practice that everyone has turned a blind eye to for decades. He was perfectly within his rights to dock the wages of the employees and to initiate a disciplinary procedure. It helps that he is not a Party man. If he were, the unions would have approached his party and the latter would have asked him not to take any action. Unfortunately, this is how things work and the reason why workers consider it perfectly normal to leave work when they feel like it.
It is also an indication of the overstaffing at municipalities – one of the reasons they leave is because there is no work for them to do. It is a bit rich for the municipalities to complain they have no money when they can afford to employ people that do not work. At least one mayor, to his credit, has decided to do something about the malaise.