President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday called on unions to suspend strikes over of cost-of-living allowance (CoLA), after Peo union said that three out of four workers are expected to participate in a nationwide strike next week to demand the full restoration of the allowance.

Speaking after a visit to Open University Cyprus, Anastasiades said the unions should call the strike off until after the elections and examine the CoLA issue further with the new government.

He reiterated that initially, the current government reinstated CoLA with a decision that covered or satisfied 50 per cent of the workers’ right to the allowance, which had previously been abolished.

CoLA was initially scrapped in 2013, when the economy went into recession, but was re-introduced in modified form in 2018 (its calculation was changed, and wages were adjusted once a year) for a transitional period of four years.

Commenting on the matter further, Anastasiades said: “We have made efforts, there are such divergent views between employers’ organisations and workers, that it takes real will from all, so that there is an agreed regulation on the matter, something that the minister of labour has made significant efforts for.”

The president questioned what the strike would serve during this transition period, and who it would pressure, as the government is changing.

“What else would they be harming except for the economy,” the president said.

On Wednesday, unions announced that public and private employees will hold a three-hour work stoppage next Thursday after discussions with employers’ organisations and Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos over CoLA ended in an impasse.

“We don’t want to strike, we don’t want to inconvenience the public nor for workers to lose the portion of that day’s salary. But the position of the employers and the government has forced us to,” the general secretary of Peo and Sidikek, representing employees from the private and semi-government sectors, Nikos Gregoriou told the Cyprus Mail.

His statements echoed the federation of trade union organisations who said that the responsibility of what will follow is “entirely borne by the employers and the government”.

Workers are demanding the gradual full restoration of CoLA while employers said they want to continue to pay 50 per cent of CoLA as had been the practice in the past five years.

As a first step to exert pressure on the state to satisfy their demand, Peo, Sek and Deok unions will strike from 12pm to 3pm, as well as all the unions of health professionals and teachers.