Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos said on Wednesday he was pessimistic about achieving a collective agreement on the cost-of-living allowance (CoLA), after meeting with trade union Deok.
He called on all the unions and social actors involved to come to the table with “consensual approaches”.
Koushos and employers’ organisations are at loggerheads with the unions, with the former calling for the abolition of CoLA and the later campaigning for its full reinstatement.
Speaking about CoLA on Wednesday, the minister said that he cannot be optimistic, at least at this stage, about reaching a consensual agreement.
From the stage of the Deok conference, he invited community players to come to a dialogue, which will end “in a mutually acceptable solution with consensual approaches”.
The current conditions call for maintaining peace in the work force, he said.
Koushos added that during the first half of 2022, more than 4,000 inspections were carried out by the department of labour relations to check compliance with employment conditions and labour legislation in general.
Also, he said the inspection service had carried out, in the first half of 2022, more than 5,000 targeted inspections for undeclared work, but also to ensure workers’ rights.
The minister said that there was a significant decline in undeclared work, which in 2009 was estimated to be at 27 per cent but up until September 2022 had been five per cent.
According to the figures of the Cyprus Statistical Service (CyStat), Koushos said, the unemployment rate in Cyprus in the second quarter of 2022 has decreased by 1.6 per cent compared to the corresponding quarter of 2021 and stands at 6.8 per cent.
“To verify our commitment to modernise and supplement the legislation and the institutional framework, a series of draft bills have been prepared, the purpose of which is to harmonise the Republic of Cyprus with European directives,” he pointed out.
Also speaking at the conference, the head of Deok Joseph Anastasiou said that CoLA cannot be abolished or weakened, but instead needs to be expanded to cover low-wage workers and those not covered by the collective agreements.
Last month, general-secretary of the workers confederation (Sek), Andreas Matsas, said the position of the trade unions was clear, adding that it was imperative to reinstitute CoLA to “restore the purchasing power of wages”.
Matsas argued that under the present economic situation CoLA would enable workers to meet their basic needs while also supporting the real economy and encouraging foreign investment, adding that it is also important for maintaining peaceful labour relations.
The issue of pension reform should also be done holistically, he said, including the actuarial readjustment of 12 per cent to ensure the smooth course of the social insurance fund and to lay the right foundations for the reform of the institution.
Peo trade union secretary-general , Sotiroulla Charalambous stated that a dialogue must be held with the aim of having new CoLA performance regulation in place as of January 1, 2023, adding that a central element is that workers from third countries stop being used as cheap labour and as a mechanism deregulator. Minimum wage workers and coverage of holidays was also on the agenda, she said.