Presidential candidate Averof Neophytou on Tuesday commended trade unions in Cyprus for their “responsible stance” throughout the years, adding he was confident that despite the looming strike action over the Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA), things would not get out of hand in the labour market.

The Disy leader made the remarks after meeting the leadership of Sek trade union.

“With the harsh measures we took in 2013 to rebuild the economy, had it not been for the responsibility shown by the trade union movement, we would not have had the results… there occurred no social unrest, and this is to the credit of the responsibility of the trade unions.”

It was this responsible stance, coupled with the sacrifices of the people, and the handling of the crisis by the Anastasiades administration, that enabled the country to get back on its feet.

Neophytou was responding to a question about his position on the dispute over CoLA, the dispute over which will on Thursday see unions holding a three-hour nationwide strike.

“I am certain,” he said, “that our trade unionists have the right to send their message through a strike, but at the same time I feel confident that they will not demolish societal calm or the stability of the country.”

Head of Sek Andreas Matsas lambasted employers for their “uncompromising stance.”

He added: “We continue the struggle, looking the workers in the eye, so that we can achieve dignity in the workplace, and we have no intention to relinquish a clear right arising from collective agreements and which is linked to preserving or reinstating the purchasing power of wages.”

Following an impasse in government-mediated talks over CoLA, public and private employees will be staging a strike on Thursday.

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