Few would contest the assertion that the state is Cyprus’ best employer as far as workers are concerned. It pays better than the private sector, gives annual pay-rises unrelated to performance and promotions based on seniority rather than ability; it disregards low staff productivity and never sacks workers for poor performance; it pays princely pensions and retirement bonuses, towards which staff contribute nothing; until Gesy was introduced it offered free healthcare to which civil servants contributed nothing; as for their working day, it ended before 3pm.
With such work conditions and terms, is it any wonder most Cypriots want a job in the civil service? Once in, they know they will not have a money worry or work-related anxiety until they die; in fact, even after they die the state will carry on paying the pension in full to their spouse. Cypriot civil servants must count themselves among the most privileged and best-looked after civil servants in the world. We doubt there is anywhere else in the world that civil servants are paid so much in return for just showing up for work.
We would assume that any person, provided with such a well-rewarded, protected and undemanding working life would feel a modicum of gratitude and loyalty towards their employer. It would be the least to expect from civil servants enjoying pay and benefits that most private sector workers, apart from bank employees, could not even dream of.
Such was the gratitude felt towards their employer that when the state, on the brink of bankruptcy, cut public sector wages to stay afloat, hundreds of civil servants sued it, claiming it had acted unconstitutionally and demanded all their lost earnings. They won the case in the administrative court but an appeal against the decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. On Tuesday, during the annual congress of their union Pasydy, we were informed that civil servants will file a recourse at the European Court of Human Rights against the pay cuts imposed by their bankrupt employer in 2012.
Any decent, right-thinking person would have been ashamed to behave in such an embarrassingly, self-interested way. Should the government have cut the benefits of the unemployed and the income support to the poor and hungry, whose numbers had peaked during the recession and the state was bailed out by international lenders, in order not to touch the pay of civil servants? This is what this greedy and selfish group of workers was in effect demanding – people could be left to starve as long as their standard of living remained intact.
So strong is the civil servant’s sense of entitlement, that they will now take their employer to the ECHR in the hope of squeezing another billion euro out of the state. That the public debt now stands at a perilous 120 per cent of GDP is of no concern, to the shameless, self-seeking Cypriot civil servant.