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Employers lambast unions over Thursday’s CoLA strike

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The Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV) on Monday decried trade unions’ decision to go ahead with strikes this week over a dispute over the Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA), at the same time instructing members to continue paying eligible workers the allowance normally.

In a circular to members, OEV said it remained committed to a “peaceful resolution” of the dispute over CoLA, adding pointedly that “for obvious reasons the period prior to the new government taking office is not conducive to productive negotiations on the substance of the issue.”

Despite its appeal to unions to hold off on industrial action and resume talks after a new government takes office – following the presidential elections in early February – OEV said the unions are proceeding with a three-hour nationwide strike this coming Thursday.

It reiterated that its own aim is to hold “negotiations in good faith, and based on the transitional agreement of July 2017, in order to agree with unions a more modern, more effective and comprehensive system based on best European practices.”

Until such time as the talks culminate in a new, commonly acceptable agreement among the social partners on a national level, OEV advised members to hold fast and “avoid striking up unilateral arrangements on CoLA which any local unions may promote”.

The organisation also called on all businesses implementing CoLA to keep paying the previously agreed allowance to any eligible staff. It specified that CoLA now stands at 4.36 per cent, or half the Consumer Price Index.

OEV further noted that participation in strike action is a right enshrined in the constitution. It went on to remind employers that, under labour law and case law, any absence from work due to strike is counted as absence without pay.

On the flipside, it added, the non-participation of any worker in a strike is likewise a constitutionally guaranteed and established right.

Thursday’s strike across all districts will take place between noon and 3pm. Unions seek the full restoration of CoLA following an impasse after discussions between Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos, unions and employers’ organisations.

Public and private employees will participate in the strike. Among the unions participating are Peo, Sek, Pasydy, Deok, Oelmek, Poed, Oltek, Sak, Pasyki, and others.

Approximately 25 to 30 per cent of private-sector workers are party to collective agreements and eligible to CoLA adjustments.

Workers demand 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.

Implemented since 1944, the cost-of-living allowance was suspended after the 2013 crisis and then partially reinstated in 2018, following the transitional agreement reached in mid-2017.

 

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