Cyprus Mail
Cyprus

Hotel workers set to announce strike action

Hotel worker unions said they will decide on Wednesday strike action citing the employers’ refusal to return to pre-crisis employment terms after a collective agreement expired in December, while employers questioned the unions’ motives.

“We are meeting to decide at which hotels, on which day and what time strikes will take place,” Miltos Miltiadou, secretary general of the hotel division of SEK said in a telephone interview on Wednesday. “Employers are not applying the terms of what was agreed. Our agreement which was valid until December 31, 2015 provided for a return to the pre-2013 status”.

Miltiadou said that while employees agreed three years ago to have their overall benefits trimmed by 15 per cent compared to what they enjoyed until 2012, employers resorted to hiring staff on lesser terms based on personal contracts. He added that the strike action, expected to start on Friday, will affect operating hotels which are not applying the collective agreement.

“If not a 100 per cent of the hotels are not applying the collective agreement, then it is at least 99 per cent,” he said. Miltiadou added that if the hospitality industry, Cyprus’s second largest employer, agrees with the unions’ terms, the impact on employment will be positive, as by scrapping a six-day week in favour of a five-day week, hotels will hire more staff.

In 2014, the hospitality sector which includes hotel and restaurants, employed on average 36,339 workers, 1.6 per cent more compared with 2013, when it fell 4 per cent to 35,819 compared with 2012. Tourist arrivals rose 8.9 per cent in 2015 to almost 2.7 million, which is the highest number ever. In 2014, tourist arrivals rose 1.5 per cent after falling 2.4 per cent the year before. Revenue from tourism fell in 2014 2.8 per cent to €2bn after rising 8 per cent in 2013.

Overnight stays by tourists in hotels and other collective accommodation establishments fell 1.9 per cent in 2014 after falling 2.5 per cent the year before.

An official at the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises, a business group which counts mainly hotels as well as theme parks and other types of enterprises to its members, said that a strike in the hotel industry would violate the industrial relations code.

“The labour ministry should opine first that there is a labour dispute,” the official said on condition of anonymity.

In addition, “if a collective agreement expires, it does not imply that we return to the status quo ante automatically,” he said. “Would they agree if the agreement that expired provided for pay rises and we reduced staff salaries automatically?”

“What they are really after is to force the parliament to regulate the terms of employment in the hotel sector per legislation,” he said. “There is already such a law dating back to the 1960s but collective agreements offer workers more. But if they manage to have it their way, then this will render the existence of unions unnecessary”.

The official added that a probable strike would affect up to 30 hotels currently operating mainly in Nicosia, Limassol and Paphos which are those that employee workers throughout the year and as a result do hire staffers according to the terms of the collective agreements. “They are accommodating currently visitors on business in Cyprus as well as sport teams training here,” he said.

A strike would mean that “directors will have to do all the work workers do every day which includes cleaning, preparing breakfast or cooking,” the official said. “Service will then suffer”.

Cyprus is struggling with an unemployment rate of around 15 per cent.

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