Labour Minster Kyriacos Koushios on Wednesday said he would not leave his post until the revamp of strategic plan for hiring third country nationals is promoted to the cabinet.
Speaking during a conference to present the work of his ministry, Koushios said that this is something the government has authority to review, unlike the cost-of-living allowance, which in previous days he had claimed is meant to be hashed out between employers and unions.
Third country nationals are currently allowed to work in the hospitality, agriculture and domestic sectors.
Long-standing discussions have been going on between unions and employers on the labour ministry’s proposals to include foreign nationals – specifically from third countries – in the workforce.
General secretary of the chamber of commerce (Keve) Marios Tsiakis said the sticking point for them is the clause that specifies companies can have 50 per cent of the workforce come from third countries only if they are part of collective agreements.
Commenting on Wednesday, Koushios said: “There is no way I will leave the ministry without a new employment strategy being adopted and I want this message to be clear to everyone. This government has executive power until February 28. Until February 28, I will perform my duties as minister of labour and I will not postpone any performance of my duties and give it to the next [person].”
Regarding CoLA, he said that as minister, he attempted to file an interim proposal to satisfy all parties, but that he was unable to do so, due to the difference of opinion between the employers’ organisations and the labour unions.
He added that the ministry is unable to intervene further than acting as an intermediary, as CoLA is based on an agreement between employers and workers.
Koushios also made a special memorial and mention to Zeta Emilianides, who was the minister before her death in June 2022.
He said: “An emblematic person, who with her ability and foresight put her stamp on the social welfare state and on the labour affairs of our country and managed, through the policies she implemented, to respond to the implementation of President Anastasiades’ political programme for a social welfare state.”
Making reference to the policies introduced during her time in the position, Koushios said that the guaranteed minimum income was brought in, as was the creation of the deputy ministry of social welfare, the plan for a child benefit, widower’s pension, and paternity leave.
“She turned over a welfare state of over €1.6 billion than what she started with,” he said.
On the national minimum wage, which was set under his time as minister he said that it was one of the largest reforms in the country.
The minister said that with the establishment of the minimum wage at €885 for full-time employment, which increases to €940 after six months of continuous employment, 20 per cent of the workers, corresponding to 80,000 people, will benefit and that the salary of approximately 40,000 workers will increase up to 30 per cent.
“Despite individual imperfections or individual problems, it is a correct reform in the right direction,” he continued.
In relation to the guaranteed minimum income, Koushios said that in 2021, 20,250 families benefited with an expenditure of €207.6 million which corresponds to an average of €10,252 per family compared to public assistance in 2013, where the funds were €168 million for 23,872 families, corresponding to an average of €7,037 per family.