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MPs give legal service days to decide on legality of regulating strike in essential services

Nicosia hopsital

MPs gave the state Legal Service until Monday to decide on the legality of a proposal to regulate strikes in essential services, submitted by ruling DISY amid a nurses’ strike that caused problems to patients.

This period will also be used by the labour minister for consultations.

The proposal was tabled last week by DISY chief Averof Neophytou who agreed on Wednesday, to remove the penalties for those breaking the law in a bid to gain support for the bill.

DISY MP Nicos Nouris said if there is no agreement on the revised proposal, it will be put to the vote on April 14 as it was originally.

The proposal stipulates that any agreements struck in the framework of industrial relations will be binding for all unions, including ones created after the said deals.

It also provides for jail time of not more than two years and or a fine of up to €3,000 for anyone breaking the law.

House Labour Committee chairman Andreas Fakondis said unions opposed the proposal while the labour and health ministries were in favour.

Employers also backed the proposal and asked for strict penalties that would be a deterrent.

Fakondis said Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou will discuss revising a 2005 deal with unions and the matter will be revisited on Monday.

Nouris said the proposal was deemed necessary after one new nurse union, PASYNO, failed to comply with the 2005 agreement, which calls for skeleton staff to be provided in case of  a strike.

Asked how the law would be enforced without penalties, Nouris pointed out that the 2005 deal was largely adhered to despite the absence of sanctions.

The AKEL administration had passed similar legislation regulating air traffic controller strikes in March 2012.

Nouris said it was necessary to pass his party’s bill to avoid unnecessary debates each time there was a new agreement or a new union was formed.

Neophytou’s proposal prohibits strikes and counter strikes in essential services at any stage of an ongoing process to resolve differences and before a decision by an arbitration committee.

Action is also banned before the issue is brought before the committee.

The side that does not accept the committee’s decision can take industrial action 25 days after warning in writing.

The strike must ensure a minimum level of service.

The proposal defines as essential, services that are necessary for control, processing, and distribution of fuel, uninterrupted supply of power, water supply, telecommunications, radio communication, air transport, hospitals, ports, prisons, customs, sewerage, waste management, refuse collection, and maintenance and repair of electromechanical installations in hospitals, airports, and National Guard, fire service, and police facilities.

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