President Nikos Christodoulides has kept his election promise to make the bank employees who took voluntary early retirement eligible for unemployment benefit. The government has submitted a bill custom-made for this purpose and it was discussed, together with a bill on the same matter proposed by the former Disy leader Averof Neophytou at the House labour committee on Tuesday. The bill and law proposal are set to be sent to the plenum for approval after Easter.

This is a scandalous piece of legislation, drafted to satisfy the powerful bank employees union Etyk, which all the politicians kowtow to. The bank employees that opted for the last voluntary exit schemes of the Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank were denied unemployment benefit after a court ruling that they were not entitled to it. The court had decided that the compensation offered to workers taking the early retirement represented future monthly wages and therefore they were not entitled to six months’ unemployment pay after leaving the job.

Bank employees that opt for voluntary exit schemes are paid two years’ salaries, so technically they were not unemployed for six months after leaving their job. Some received as much as €200,000 and the amount was not taxed, another legitimised irregularity. These ultra privileged workers also demand the right to take money from the taxpayer they are not legally entitled to, and the politicians are keen to satisfy them. This is legalised theft of the taxpayer, with the blessing of politicians, for the benefit of the best-paid and most generously compensated private sector employees.

Is it possible for the law that will be passed this April or May to have retroactive effect? The compensation schemes were put in place last year under a different law so how can the law that will be passed now apply to the previous year? Is this another illegality the legislature and the executive will turn a blind eye to? The original proposal was for the new law to be valid from April 1, 2022 until May 31, 2023 to cover the employees of the two banks, but Neophytou pointed out that it should be extended to September 30, 2023 because a voluntary exit scheme was being prepared at Cyta. We could not possibly deprive the overpaid employees of Cyta, who apart from the big, tax-free compensation will also draw a hefty monthly pension, of the right to claim unemployment benefit as well.

This lawful stealing from the taxpayer by the best rewarded workers of the economy is a scandal of major proportions but nobody dares to say anything in case they upset the mighty union bosses. Taking money from the taxpayer under false pretenses will be lawful until the end of September, if you happen to have been a bank or Cyta employee, paid two year’s salaries in advance and tax free.