WE DO NOT know whose advice President Anastasiades follows, in regularly offering his services as a mediator in industrial disputes, but wherever it comes from it is poor counsel. Apart from showing no trust for the state services responsible for handling such disputes it also displays disregard for decisions taken by ministers. Worst of all, it encourages union militancy in the broader public sector because union bosses know that if they stick to their positions, the worst that could happen is for them to be granted an audience with the president posing as the fair and just mediator.
Anastasiades is neither fair nor just, but he is a pragmatist, who does not want to alienate public sector unions and usually gives in to them. It happened with the Limassol port workers, state hospital nurses and doctors a few years ago while last summer he suffered one embarrassment after the other while playing the mediator in the long-drawn-out row between the teaching unions and the education ministry. He refuses to learn anything from these experience, insisting on playing the mediator-in-chief, undermining his ministers and allowing union bosses to call the shots.
On Wednesday it was the turn of the unions of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus to head to the presidential palace and meet Anastasiades regarding their demand for the restoration of the pre-2013 pay and benefits of employees. Their argument was that the government was obliged to pay up after the administrative court’s decision ruling the cuts unconstitutional. The unions also wanted the EAC to carry on paying its 5.9 per cent medical insurance contribution for each employee regardless of Gesy. According to reports Anastasiades rejected the demand for the restoration of pay and benefits, but agreed that the EAC would carry on paying for medical insurance until the introduction of the second phase of Gesy in 2020.
Could these positions not have been conveyed to the unions by the board of the EAC? Regarding the restoration of wages there is a finance ministry decision. Anastasiades should have refused to see the unions of these pampered EAC employees, on principle, rather than legitimising their unreasonable demands by engaging in a dialogue with them. When will a president tell these entitled employees of the SGOs and the public sector that they are the best-paid workers on the island and that their demands are a provocation to all other working people?
Anastasiades would have gained much more of the public respect he craves if he had the guts to stand up to the EAC unions and told them bluntly he would not see them, because apart from the fact their demands were unreasonable, they also went against government decisions.