The use of individual contracts and outsourcing as forms of employment expands uncontrollably, both in the private sector and the broad public sector, threatening labour peace, Andreas Matsas, the new Secretary General of SEK, tells the Cyprus News Agency.
He says the trade union is putting pressure for these two forms of employment to be regulated or put barriers to their further expansion.
Matsas says the trade unions will try to regain allowances that the employees lost because of the economic crisis, and even increase their salaries, something that has been already achieved in some companies.
In an interview with the CNA, the new Secretary General of SEK noted that the union will maintain the responsible stance it has adopted since the outburst of the economic crisis in Cyprus.
But at the same time, he said, the union will work to restore allowances that were lost or limited because of the economic crisis. “There is room even for raises, and that is evident in several cases” he said, noting that this has been achieved in some companies.
It could be achieved in the tourist sector, the key driver of economic growth at the moment, he said.
“We are trying, also by strengthening the effort of the Labour Ministry to increase inspections, to make sure that the legislation, as it is following the signing of the collective agreement, is implemented without derogations, even in hotels where trade unions are not involved or their involvement is limited”.
Asked whether the collective agreements are threatened by the widespread use of individual contracts, Matsas noted that “the uncontrollable use of individual contracts puts in danger basic rights of the employees”, and at the same time, both the qualitative development of the hotel industry and the effort to maintain labour peace.
The same applies for outsourcing, which deregulates the labour market, he said. “We are in a regular contact with the Minister of Labour and trying to push in order to put barriers to these two new forms of employment or regulate them”.
These trends lead undeclared work to soar, Matsas explained, but expressed the view that a new bill prepared by the Labour Ministry to combat undeclared work “covers the needs” as it constitutes “a more structured approach” of the problem.
There are some elements in the bill that will prevent undeclared work, such as the increased penalties and the increase in the number of inspectors.
The new SEK Secretary General said that the steady downward trend in the unemployment rate will not continue at the same pace, but will gradually slow down. Nevertheless he noted that the policy of linking training with work, through the schemes implemented by the Labour Ministry, has created conditions for many people to enter the labour market.
The hotel industry is recovering, creating jobs, he said, adding that “in general there are conditions for a more structured approach of the issue of employment, but this does not mean that we have managed to completely escape from the deregulation of the labour market”.
He also stressed that the provision of COLA (cost of living allowance) will have to be agreed in a manner that will not burden the employees. The provision of COLA has been frozen as part of the efforts to consolidate public finances and address the economic crisis, but since then Cyprus has remained stuck in deflation.
“We believe that the employees have borne a disproportionate burden of responsibility through wage reductions and other allowances, so it would be an additional negative burden if the provision of COLA began from its current point” Matsas said, warning that such a development would lead the unions and the workers to react.
He also expressed the view that the real economy has not yet recovered and that it will take some years for the people to feel the positive performance of the economy in their daily lives.