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Our View: Is proposed new service just an excuse to hire more civil servants?

The majority of parties in the legislature last week crossed out the expenditure item in the 2020 State Budget earmarked for the creation and operation of a Unitary Inspection Service that would combat undeclared labour. Although the item had been included in the budget by the government, Disy together with Diko, Edek, Elam and Solidarity voted against it.

This sparked an angry reaction from the three big unions, all of which claimed these parties were working for employers’ organisations, enabling employers to carry on with their illegalities and exploiting cheap labour. The bill had been in the legislature for the past two years and had been taken to the plenum twice but was not approved, prompting speculation about a plot by employers and parties to prevent tools being given to the state for effective implementation of the law.

While unions have a strong case with regard to the continuous use of delaying tactics by parties and employers’ organisations, which make sure the dialogue on the matter never ends, they seem to be putting too much faith in the proposed Unitary Inspection Service. Why are they so certain it would be an effective tool in clamping down on illegality and undeclared work? Will it not be run by public employees who are generally ineffective in performing their duties?

What is difficult to understand is why an Inspection Service is needed to clamp down on undeclared employment? Undeclared employment is in violation of the law and the authorities have all the tools needed to clamp down on law-breaking employers. We are sure there are plenty of public employees at the labour ministry who could be sent to inspect businesses on a systematic basis. Why is this not being done as happened during the Christofias government? The labour minister at the time did not need a new law setting up a special unit to send out inspectors. The thinking at the time, quite correctly, was that if employers were breaking the law, the authorities had an obligation to go after them.

Why have we suddenly decided that a Unitary Inspection Service is needed? Is this being used as an excuse to create even more public sector jobs, something the Anastasiades government has been doing recklessly in the last few years? The government should by all means clamp down on undeclared work to protect the most vulnerable members of the work force, but it does not have to hire another 50 public employees to do this. It can utilise existing, underworked staff at the labour ministry to carry out inspections.

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