Cyprus Mail

Government agrees to change status of contract civil service staff

Did we, or will we cut the cost of the public sector?

The government on Monday agreed to change the status of some 5,000 civil servants on open contracts to permanent under certain conditions, although concerns were raised as to the legality of such an act.

Parties have prepared two bills to effect the change, which the finance ministry agreed with, under two conditions, as that would correct certain operational distortions inside the civil service.

There is, however, the question of whether such a move would be constitutional, raised by the audit service during discussion of the issue at the House finance committee.

“We fully agree on the political aspect,” Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides said, pointing out that this was the result of bad practices of the past.

The civil servants in question have no opportunity to advance, but beyond the inequality, their status created operational and functional distortions in the service.

“We agree. The issue is legal and must be cleared legally,” Petrides said. “If it is legally clear… we support it.”

The minister did, however, set two conditions for the government to back the workers’ change of status.

Petrides said for fiscal reasons, they would have to replace permanent jobs in the government and secondly, the one-off arrangement would put an end to the distortion of hiring staff on open contracts.

The head of the public service commission, Giorgos Papageorgiou, agreed with Petrides, provided a legal way could be found to implement it.

“We have 4,000 to 5,000 employees who do the same work, maybe even do a better job, but do not have the same benefits. The issue is clearly a legal one,” Papageorgiou said.

The leader of the civil service union Pasydy said it was necessary to settle the matter, adding that there was case law from Greece stipulating that it was within the state’s powers to regulate public service issues.

The sides agreed to ask the attorney-general to give his opinion on the matter, even though the bills were tabled by parties and not the government.

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