Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou on Friday said the state has the responsibility to ensure that the appropriate safety and health rules in the workplace not only exist and are applied, but that their implementation is controlled and their violation punished.

Speaking during an event organised by union Sek in Nicosia to commemorate people who lost their lives in workplace accidents, Panayiotou said the state has a responsibility towards working people to provide them with the safest possible conditions, regardless of their occupation.

“We also have a responsibility towards those who are no longer with us, as well as their families” he said. “We need to limit and, when possible, even eliminate risks from all workplaces, so all of us can carry out our duties safely.”

The minister also said that added responsibility falls on the employers’ shoulders, who need to make sure that their employees can enjoy a workplace without incurring unnecessary risks.

“The government is working hard towards finding policies and coming up with more rules to lower the number of workplace accidents,” Panayiotou said.

He said that in recent days he had a meeting with the police chief, during which they discussed possible ways to reach that goal.

Days before the meeting with the police chief, he discussed workplace safety with the organising committee of Sek and conveyed them the ministry’s commitment to see that the number of workplace accidents is Cyprus consistently decreases in the years to come.

“We need to be more determined and effective in this. Since we all want the same thing, we will manage to achieve our goal of increasing safety and eliminate risks when we go to work,” Panayiotou said, adding that workplace accidents cost the state about 4 per cent of Cyprus’ annual GDP.

Speaking after the minister, the head of Sek Andreas Matsas said unions in Cyprus need to send a clear and unequivocal message to the institutions that workplace safety is non-negotiable and that the state needs to guarantee better, safer and more equipped working conditions to everyone.

“According to official figures released by the International Labour Organisation, every 15 seconds a worker loses his life somewhere in the world,” he said.

“Let us consider just how many workers will have lost their lives during this event due to an occupational accident.

Matsas added that his union played a key part in the talks with the government to reach a compromise proposal in the ongoing CoLA (cost of living allowance) dispute.

“Safer workplaces are also those that have a union presence, where workers are protected and their voices are heard by their employers and by the government.

“Reaching an agreement regarding CoLA is one of our main goals,” Matsas added.

“It is imperative to strengthen the legislative framework so that the rules, commitments and penalties become stricter in order to act as a deterrent.”

On Friday, Panayiotou submitted a compromise proposal on CoLA. 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.

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.