Cyprus Mail
Opinion

Our View: A blatant case of social injustice

PASYDY head Glafkos Hadjipetrou

PLANS to introduce a national health scheme (Gesy) were dealt a big blow after the public servants’ union Pasydy said that its members would not be making monthly contributions like all other workers. To be more precise, general secretary Glafcos Hadjipetrou told Phileleftheros yesterday that the union did not object to the monthly contribution as long as the state paid it and it was not deducted from a public servant’s wage.

This would inevitably increase the cost of Gesy for the state and lead to the need for tax hikes, a possibility mentioned last week by the finance minister in relation to the implementation of Gesy. More importantly, this would be scandalous preferential treatment and a blatant case of social injustice whereby poor workers would be paying for the healthcare of the country’s highest-paid workers. The state would be paying the contributions of public servants with the taxpayer’s money – in other words taxing the poor in order to safeguard the monthly income of the rich.

Defending this demand, Hadjipetrou cited the terms of employment of public servants which stipulate that the employer (the state) provided free healthcare to it employees. He also mentioned that Pasydy had appealed to the courts against the 2013 decision by the government, to deduct 1.5 per cent from a public servant’s wage to cover the free healthcare provided, but no ruling had been issued yet. It is entirely possible that the court would decide the government was in the wrong and the state would have to return all the money it had deducted in the last four years.

The idea that collective agreements are written in stone has to be challenged because conditions change. If a company that offered its workers free healthcare cover cannot afford to do so at some point it stops doing so to avoid bankruptcy or redundancies. The same should apply to the state when conditions change. When this benefit was given, there were fewer public employees, wages were lower than in the private sector and the state could afford to provide it. None of these conditions apply today and to have viable, universal health cover everyone in employment would have to contribute.

If the government gives in to Pasydy, businesses should refuse to participate in Gesy and so should private sector workers, even though their unions might by afraid to go against the labour aristocracy of the public service. It might be an idea to set up a fund to pay for legal challenges to such a decision on the grounds that the state was exercising blatant discrimination and failing offer equal treatment to its citizens. People have to fight to end the parasitic existence of public servants.

 

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