By Loucas Charalambous
I HAVE written before on how “union fascism” has dominated the public sector. It is a fascism that has been cultivated by the demagogues of the political parties, mostly by those that that make up today’s opposition.
In Cyprus, being in opposition means supporting even the most irrational and idiotic actions as long as these are directed against the government. The unions are often the main perpetrators. What they say or do is irrelevant. For the parties, the unions are always right because supporting them could win a few votes in the next elections.
In the rest of the world, the unions’ primary concerns are the improvement of working conditions and raising their members’ standard of living. And they act to protect their real, long-term interests. Here, the unions have become ruthless gangs that try, using every available means, to impose their will and have tantrums even over matters that have nothing to do with their members and their work.
They believe they should be running the state and taking decisions in place of the government. The example of the EAC and CyTA is probably unique in the world. I do not know of any other country in which the unions have been trying to force the government to do what they want with state assets, by threatening to bring the economy to a standstill and disrupt everyone’s daily life, and expecting the government not to honour the agreements it made with the international lenders. Such audacity can only leave you speechless.
Recently we also witnessed the appalling behaviour of the bank employees union ETYK. The union called a 48-hour strike at the Co-operative Central Bank, demanding pay rises and Cost of Living Allowance retroactively for its members that are among the best-paid employees – enjoying many privileges as well – in Cyprus, at a time when tens of thousands of people are unemployed and unable to feed their families. And to make the provocation even more difficult to stomach, the strike was decided on the very day the state announced it would give the co-op bank another €150 million for its capital needs to save it from collapse.
A few days ago, we had the outrageous case of the four Paphos municipality workers. This was just a small example of the widespread rot in what is known as the public sector. Instead of being at their various jobs, one claimed he gone to the kiosk, the second had disappeared for “personal reasons”, they other had skived off and gone to his sister’s house for lunch at a village outside Paphos and the fourth was at a gambling joint. They were caught, because the mayor decided to carry out a check at their work-place. It is very easy to imagine how many similar cases there are that pass unnoticed.
But what stood out in this case was the provocative reaction of the unions. Last Tuesday they staged a two-hour work stoppage protesting over the behaviour of mayor, who had given instructions for the wages of the four workers to be docked a sum equivalent to the hours they were not at work. Such audacity must be a world first. I hope the mayor also docks another two hours pay from their wages for the strike.
We have become accustomed, in the last year or so, to laugh at the Greeks whenever we heard about all those tragicomic goings-on in their public sector. The truth is that not even in Greece did we hear of union audacity of the level seen in Paphos. This is the union fascism about which I wrote at the start.
This is the creation of our political demagogues. It was cultivated with their acceptance, encouragement and support. Whenever this fascistic behaviour is displayed, the leaderships of AKEL, DIKO, EDEK and the small parties are by the side of the unions, regardless of how unreasonable their demands are. In short, they are real culprits for this dismal state of affairs. And they bear all the responsibility for the criminal behaviour of the union bosses and their destructive actions.