Achieving labour peace was front and centre on Friday as the Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou submitted a compromise proposal in the ongoing CoLA (cost of living allowance) dispute.
The proposal specifies renewing the 2017 interim agreement for another three years and increasing CoLA to two-thirds of the Consumer Price Index. This would mean CoLA will go up to a 66.67 per cent share from the current 50 per cent.
“A compromise cannot satisfy all sides completely but is necessary for the collective good and the broader public interest,” Panayiotou said after the meeting.
The changes will come into effect as of June 1 according to last year’s inflation. The goal is to ensure a broader dialogue to finalise the deal by 2025 permanently.
“Our economy and society need normalcy and stability so as to achieve growth and cohesion,” the minister added.
“We need labour peace and we must finalise a deal over CoLA.”
He said he hoped all those involved would approach the compromise seriously and responsibly.
Trade unions and employer organisation will have a new meeting with the labour minister next Friday at 10am to submit their final thoughts on Panayiotou’s proposal.
Unions and employers alike said they would be examining the ideas put forth by the minister and would be reverting back – though the sense of disappointment was tangible.
“What we heard is quite far from the goals and parameters we had put down,” Peo union general secretary Sotiroulla Charalambous said.
In a statement later, Peo said the proposal was “far removed from the common framework of the decision of the trade unions as agreed at the pan-union meetings and in particular does not lead to the complete restoration of CoLA based on its philosophy with a specific timetable”.
“The proposal leaves the CoLA issue pending,” the union added.
Sek union rep Andreas Matsas noted their first impression is that the proposal does not offer answers on handling the full restoration of CoLA.
The employers and industrials federation (Oev) chairman Antonis Antoniou said “this isn’t what we expected but through a negotiation we have to find a golden thread.”
At present, he told reporters he could not state whether he was for or against the proposal as Oev would have to explore the proposal collectively.
Cyprus’ chamber of commerce (Keve) general secretary Marios Tsiakkis said a decision would be announced when all facets of the proposal were explored.
He said their view had been they could continue paying 50 per cent of CoLA – though it remains to be seen how the 66.67 per cent will be met.
The labour minister said the government was also exploring expanding workers’ rights beyond CoLA and possible compensation measures to employers though there was nothing concrete to announce as of yet.