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Our View: Where union rights end and protection rackets begin nobody knows

UNION bullying and intimidation has always been considered a legitimate activity, another so-called ‘right’ of the workers that we have to respect because such rights supersede the law in the dictatorship of the proletariat. And in Cyprus this dictatorship is as strong as ever, despite the harm it has caused the economy and the high cost it has inflicted on the taxpayer.

Even the mighty banks have to submit to the diktats of the union.

The unions of CyTA and the Electricity Authority have blocked the government’s privatisation plans using the opposition parties (they would have backed privatisation if the unions supported it), without anybody questioning the legitimacy of such action. The government may have agreed with international lenders to privatise these organisations and use the money raised to lower the public debt, but it was over-ruled by the powerful union bosses who are accountable to no-one but their members.

Meanwhile the Bank of Cyprus has for months been trying to downsize its work force by some 250 employees, but is being prevented from doing so by the union ETYK, which has prevented the bank from making anyone redundant. The bank therefore put together a voluntary retirement scheme, forfeiting its right to decide which staff would be laid off. Not enough staff volunteered and a second was drafted which was also snubbed because the compensation offered was deemed inadequate. Management considered giving redundancy notices, after the failure of the second scheme, but ETYK, using the strike threat, forced the bank to come up with a third, ultra-generous scheme instead.

Rather than exercise its lawful right to make staff redundant, at significantly lower cost to its shareholders, the Bank of Cyprus was bullied into offering an ultra-generous compensation scheme by the union. It is almost as if ETYK had decreed redundancies illegal. Then again this is the union that had forced banks to make a monthly contribution – 2 per cent on each wage it pays – to the union’s ‘solidarity fund’ which would be used to finance strikes. Where union rights end and protection rackets begin nobody knows in the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Meanwhile today, the workers of the Ports Authority will stage a two-hour work stoppage, in an attempt to stop the board pursuing a disciplinary investigation against a union boss charged with writing defamatory letters about port services. Port unions claim he was acting within his rights as he was covered by the regulation safeguarding union freedom. But to be on the safe side, unions have threatened stepping up their action, in the event that the board finds him guilty of committing a disciplinary offence. What do we need rules, regulations and laws for when have unions to tell us what is right and wrong?

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