DISY leader Averof Neophytou said on Sunday it was time to sit down and talk seriously about limiting strikes in essential services, election period or not.
The comment comes amidst an ongoing strike by nurses, a four-day shut-down of Limassol port and possible industrial action by employees of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) early next month.
Neophytou, speaking at a DISY event in Polis in Paphos said there was no question of abolishing strikes but when they happens “it should not endanger public safety, public health and public transport”, he said.
It was now timely to discuss and regulate the issue of strikes in key sectors of the economy, which was first discussed by the early ’90s, he said, adding he himself had tabled a law proposal on the issue in March 2012.
He also reminded that the island’s three main unions SEK, PEO and PASYDY had agreed that security personnel in essential services would always be covered during any industrial action, “which did not work in practice” because smaller independent unions were not bound by these signatures.
“This is a critical issue and should be discussed even in the midst of the election campaign,” Neophytou said.
Neophytou, and other government officials, said repeatedly lately that they suspected the opposition parties were encouraging workers in the public sector to strike. On Wednesday he said that some political parties “believe that they will carry out their election campaign through strikes”.
Michael McBride, a lawyer at the Limassol-based Chrysses Demetriades law firm, told the Cyprus Business Mail that while Cyprus lacked the legislation regulating or banning strikes at public services or utilities defined as essential, the government may still have options to limit their effect.
“There are some critical services which may cripple the country if they are not defined as essential services,” McBride said.
“Under the constitution it is possible for the government to either requisite a service when there are serious grounds making it necessary such as war, or other public danger,” which could threaten the existence of the Republic or any part thereof, he said in reference to the constitution’s article 183. In addition, article 27, which generally recognises the right to strike, also allows restrictions in the case of essential services,” McBride said.