The government wants and seeks to upgrade the social dialogue, in a context where communication and cooperation with all social partners is essential, Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou said on Wednesday.
Speaking before a scheduled meeting with the executive council of labour union Peo, the minister said that issues related to work in general, and workers in particular, were on the agenda.
He added that discussions on reaching a mutually accreptable agreement for CoLA were also part of the effort, with the expectation to generate progress, which will lead to concrete results.
Speaking to reporters, Peo general secretary Sotiroulla Charalambous said she handed over to the minister a memorandum containing the union’s positions on all issues, including employment strategies for third country nationals, the policies to be followed to expand the scope of collective bargaining coverage, pending minimum wages, as well as pension reform.
“We are at a pivotal point in terms of the course of labor issues in Cyprus,” she said.
“In recent years, the labour relations system has been drastically overturned, with a fall in workers who are covered by regulated labour conditions, and an increase in the proportion of workers who work without basic rights,” she added.
She stressed that Peo is awaiting the ministry to act immediately so that a balance can be restored.
This phenomenon, she said, can be understood by everyone and especially by the workers, “who in recent years have seen their income decrease and be squeezed even more by inflation”.
Charalambous reiterated that the memorandum lists Peo’s positions on the main labour and social issues that the union expects to be immediately prioritised by the ministry.
More specifically, it refers to measures to reorganise the labour system, with the union recommending the regulation of basic minimum rights for those workers covered by the minimum wage, the expansion of coverage with collective labour agreements, the fight against the concealment of the employer-employee relationship, the combatting of zero-hour contracts and strategies for the employment of third-country nationals.
“For this situation to change, and to expand the percentage of coverage of employees by collective agreements to 80 per cent as per the relevant European directive, the intervention of the state with institutional measures is necessary,” Peo’s memorandum read.
In relation to the contested issue of CoLA, the union said that there is an “urgent” need to reach a new agreement on the matter starting from January 1 2023. “As clearly defined in the agreement that expired, the new agreement must be aimed at the performance of CoLA based on its philosophy,” it said.
“This can be achieved by adopting our recommendations for the measures to expand coverage with collective labour agreements”.
In relation to the modernisation of the pension system, Peo said that “there is a need – with the aim of ensuring the long-term sustainability of the Social Insurance Fund – for a change in the state’s borrowing policy from the fund at zero interest, as well as a policy of creating a real reserve with annual returns”.
The union added that as part of the pension debate, the institution of provident funds should be considered as a second mandatory pillar as their universalisation is instrumental in ensuring adequate income after retirement.
In the meantime, the passing of legislation, the safety and health of workers, the improvements of labour legislation, but also the standard professional qualifications are among the most basic issues listed by Peo, which it expects to be immediately put on the priorities of the labour ministry.