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Unions warn minister of possible strikes over CoLA

koushos, kyriacos koushos
Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos

Trade unions on Thursday fired a warning shot across the bow, saying they would sanction industrial action if by next week the government does not definitively commit to a full restoration of the Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA) in salaries.

Following a gathering of 14 syndicates in Nicosia, they released a joint statement saying they were adopting a “wait and see” approach ahead of a crucial meeting on January 12 between them, employers organisations and Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos.

They reiterated their determination to ensure that CoLA be reinstated in full “in order to restore the purchasing power of workers amid surging inflation.”

And they put the labour minister on notice, saying they expected from him, as the “custodian of labour relations and calm in the labour market, to fulfill his role and mission…”

The unions said they would convene again on January 12, right after the meeting with the minister, to evaluate the results.

“In the event of an adverse outcome, the organisations will adopt final decisions for taking across-the-board countermeasures, for which sole responsibility will lie with those who with delaying tactics seek to harm the institution of CoLA…”

Employers’ organisations and unions signed a transitional agreement at the end of 2017, maintaining 50 per cent of the rise in the retail price index incorporated in wages once a year.

Fully restoring CoLA would come at an estimated €150 million added to the public sector payroll which has not been factored into the 2023 state budget.

As businesses face stark inflation rates and spiraling energy costs, they say full restoration of CoLA is not viable as it effectively translated to nine per cent pay rises on a gross salary.

If unions and employers do not reach an agreement, the transitional CoLA agreement that applies since the beginning of 2018 would remain. A provision stipulates that if the two sides fail to agree on a new CoLA formula the transitional agreement stays in force.

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