Cyprus Mail
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Public servants believe they are a different class of workers

File photo: President Nicos Anastasiades meeting public service union Pasydy officials

THE FINANCE ministry has decided to appeal against the administrative court’s ruling that the incremental reductions of the pensions of public sector, which were in force since December 2012 were unconstitutional. The return of the amounts cut was estimated to cost the state between 30 and 40 million euro every year. The ruling was based on a bizarre, older, Supreme Court decision that deemed state pensions a property right.

The biggest fear of the finance ministry, however is that the administrative court might rule the cuts of public sector wages from 2013 to 2017, against which appeals were filed both by Pasydy and individual public servants, unconstitutional. The amount saved each year through these cuts was about €250 million. If the court rules the pay cuts unconstitutional, the state would be faced with a total bill of €1.25 billion, for the five years the cuts were in force. This danger is included in the government’s report on fiscal risks that is submitted every year with the state budget.

It is pointless to go into the legal aspects of the case as the law in Cyprus seems to weigh in favour of public employees for some reason. Why could states like the UK and Greece cut pensions and public sector wages without the courts overturning the decisions while in Cyprus it is unconstitutional to do so, even when the state is bankrupt and needs to reduce its spending to remain solvent? What type of democratic constitution protects a specific group of workers from suffering pay cuts when the rest of the workforce has no such protection from the law?

This is not just a legal issue. It is also a moral issue, which highlights the sense of entitlement of the public employees that believe they have the right to be treated differently from all the other workers on the island. And Pasydy, their union, has gone to court in the belief that public employees cannot be treated like the rest of the country’s workers who accepted pay cuts without protest or appeals to the courts.

Public employees, with the encouragement of their union leaders and tacit approval of pandering politicians have come to believe they are a different class of worker, entitled to special treatment. We hope the courts accept the appeal of Pasydy and orders the state to reimburse all public employees for suffering the injustice of having their pay docked like the rest of the workers. Perhaps this will at last trigger a reaction from the rest of the working population that will pick up the bill for preserving the privileges of our labour aristocracy.