Employers organisations on Tuesday sought to allay concerns over en masse layoffs once the government support schemes related to Covid-19 expire.
Their comments came after a meeting with Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, who a day earlier met representatives of trade unions, who warned they would react to attempts at wage cuts or a dilution of work-related benefits as a substitute for not sacking employees.
Emilianidou met the leaderships of the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV), the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Keve), the Hotels Association (Pasyxe) and the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises (Stek).
Coming out of the meeting, Pasyxe chairman Harris Loizides said they discussed the state of play in the tourism industry, which has taken a big hit this year.
“Bookings are at meager levels, while some markets [countries] which could have operated in September and October have been downgraded,” he said, alluding to the ranking of countries according to their perceived coronavirus risk.
One of the reasons why the hotel and tourism sectors are managing to hold their own despite the market shock of 2020, he noted, is because of the three previous bumper years.
“Those years created a sort of cushion, but it won’t last forever,” Loizides noted.
This year tourism turnover has experienced a decline of at least 80 per cent.
For his part, Stek chairman Akis Vavlitis said all the losses of the hotel industry are being absorbed by businessmen.
“This fairy tale that hoteliers are supposedly getting millions in subsidies just isn’t true,” he said.
Vavlitis urged all stakeholders – the private sector and the government – to turn their attention to the next tourist season which needs to be a successful one, “otherwise the economy can’t take it.”
Head of Oev Michalis Antoniou said that for his organisation, “the safeguarding of social consensus and labour calm is a top priority.”
He added: “Oev will do whatever is feasible so that there are neither cuts to benefits nor sackings, which employees may be worried about.”
According to Antoniou, in economic terms Cyprus has managed the coronavirus situation better than any other EU country.
Asked whether they raised the matter of ‘flexible work’ with the minister, Antoniou said they did not.
But he did not altogether rule out employers making use of such measures, although if implemented they would be done in accordance with the code of industrial relations.
“No worker should be concerned about anything for the near future,” he noted.
“We are mobilising all the resources at our disposal in order to handle the problems of the coming period, so that once the economy is re-energised we won’t get either a reduction in benefits or any form of runaway unemployment.”
Regarding firings, the Oev boss said that during high-growth years there tend to be around 3,000 to 4,000 redundancies anyway; given that GDP this year is expected to shrink by about seven per cent, redundancies may be expected to be slightly higher than that.
But this would be done “with the utmost care in order not to victimise a single worker.”
On Wednesday the cabinet is due to discuss the situation in the labour market generally, with the labour minister relaying the outcome of her talks with the trade unions and employers organisations.