Nothing illustrates better the deference extended to unions by the politicians than the president’s traditional address of the annual congress of the public employees’ union Pasydy, in the presence of the president of the House and ministers. Attending the annual congress has become an official duty of the head of state, like attending the March 25 and October 1 parades. Worse still, is the way the address always panders to this privileged and entitled group of workers, praising their big contribution to the smooth functioning of the state machinery.

President Anastasiades has done this every year. A couple of months after Cyprus entered the assistance programme in 2013, he was at the Pasydy congress praising the public employees for the great ‘sacrifices’ they made to help out the state and pledging that his government would not ask them to make any more. These were the workers that had made the smallest sacrifices in terms of pay cuts and were never at risk of losing their jobs, not to mention the fact that they subsequently went to court challenging the state’s decision to cut their wages and won the case.

Untruths are part of the presidential pandering. On Monday he praised the public employees for their high sense of responsibility during the pandemic, “maintaining the smooth operation of the public sector”. Was he referring to the majority of the public hospital staff having taken sick leave during the first lockdown? Or was he referring to the practice of state services not to grant appointments or serve the public by phone?

He also said: “The public service, despite its known deficiencies and weaknesses, has always lived up to the expectations of the state, society and citizens.” This is a blatant untruth. The civil service has never lived up to the expectations of citizens, unless the expectations of citizens were slow, inefficient and rude service. From the day he took office, Anastasiades said he made the reform and evolution of the public service one of his most important targets, so it would become more flexible, more productive and more effective. For the previous eight years, Pasydy, has been opposing reform, eventually agreeing to it only because it was made a condition for EU funding.

Praising this self-serving union, which has always put the interests of its entitled members above those of everyone else, is offensive to all the hard-working people of the private sector and we cannot understand why Anastasiades insisted on doing it even in the last year of his term in office. He is not after the votes of public employees as he will not be seeking re-election, so why is he still pandering to them? This was his opportunity speak honestly to Pasydy’s unproductive, underworked and overpaid pen-pushers, but Anastasiades opted for the familiar path of untruths.

The subordination of the politicians to Pasydy will not end any time soon..