THE PROTESTS by the Turkish Cypriot public sector unions are quite astonishing given the poor state of the economy in the north. The upheaval indicates a complete lack of touch with reality and a sense of entitlement that makes Greek Cypriot public sector unions, apart from the teachers’, appear almost responsible and public-spirited, as they accepted the bailout-imposed pay cuts without protests. Pasydy took legal action, claiming the cuts were unconstitutional but there was no industrial action.
In the north, in contrast, the public employees are up in arms and decided to work to rule because the ‘government’ decided to stop overtime. This caused chaos with flights on Tuesday as air traffic controllers decided to go on strike, while hospitals and ports have also been affected by the work to rule. On Monday workers at ‘parliament’ may go on strike while on Thursday the Union Platform said they would hold a protest march about the overtime pay ban. As of yesterday it was reported that they reached a deal on overtime but there was no indication the planned protests had been cancelled.
There was also uproar yesterday after the ‘government’ announced an increase in the price of petrol, resulting in a demonstration that caused a traffic jam
It is as if the public employees are totally unaware about what has been happening in Turkey in the last few weeks, behaving like they have some right to be protected from the consequences of the devaluation of the Turkish Lira which has lost 40 per cent of its value against the dollar and is causing devastation to the economy. There is no way purchasing power could be safeguarded when the currency suffers such a big devaluation, while the inflation rate is more than 16 per cent, but Turkish Cypriots seem to believe they should somehow be immune to the consequences.
Perhaps they have been denial about the north being a province of Turkey in everything but name. This may be a wake-up call. The authorities in the north are not under such illusions, fully aware of the economic dependence on Turkey, which extends to hundreds of millions of dollars in cash assistance every year. The ‘government’ has decided to cut spending and increase taxes because it know that the cash assistance from Ankara is certain to be reduced. It also understands that it would not be very wise to demand that the annual assistance was maintained while the Turkish state was in deep financial trouble and the standard of living of mainland Turks has plummeted.
It seems Turkish Cypriot public employees, to a greater extent than their Greek Cypriot counterparts, believe that they are entitled to special treatment and that economic crises should not be allowed to affect their standard of living.