President Nikos Christodoulides on Monday called on social partners to contribute to reaching compromise agreements to safeguard workers’ rights amid an ongoing dispute on the cost of living allowance.

Cyprus’ long history of labour peace is due to the well-developed functioning of tripartite social dialogue, the president said in a written statement to mark May Day. He added that social partners, such as employees and employers unions, have a high sense of responsibility and maturity and that they adopt decisions and policies which “over time respond to the needs of society and the potential of the economy”.

“I have the strong belief that the social partners will act accordingly and compromise agreements will be reached with a direct positive impact for workers and safeguarding their rights,” Christodoulides said.

He noted that the state is also seeking the same goals through its efforts with the recent compromise proposal on the CoLa (cost of living allowance) which aims in this direction.

The proposal, which was met with disappointment by trade unions, 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 state must ensure that working conditions are safe and decent, that wages are fair and satisfactory, that rules are enforced and that laws are observed without any discrimination,” the president’s statement added.

Both the development of the economy and the cohesion of society cannot be achieved without putting the human at the centre, he said, highlighting the importance of the social struggles that led to the establishment of workers’ rights.

In his own call to employees’ and employers’ unions, Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou expressed the hope that in the coming days efforts will be made by the social partners to reach an agreement on the CoLa issue.

The minister said the state is trying to reach agreements through social dialogue and CoLa is a “very important institution” which must be preserved. Therefore, if an agreement is reached, Panayiotou said, this will not be a success of the government but of the social partners.

On the government’s CoLa proposal, Panayiotou said this provides for an increased rate, “in line with the high inflation of 2022”.

“We are trying to achieve the best through the data which are set internationally,” he noted.

The minister, who was speaking at an event held by Sek trade union at their Nicosia headquarters to mark Labour Day, also mentioned the government’s goals for the labour market.

He said the state is working on ways that will expand collective agreements to 80 per cent of the working force according to the EU target.

Regarding the consolidation of the public sector, the labour minister said it requires better staffing to check that the rules are properly implemented. As for the health and safety of workers, he said his ministry is looking into how to protect those who work in “very difficult and dangerous conditions”.

Moreover, the government is in the process of preparing the supplementary budget for the increase of the minimum pensions by 5 per cent while social partners will evaluate the recently introduced minimum wage.

The labour minister also mentioned the development of human resources, saying that “we need people from European countries or third countries to staff the economy properly”.

Meanwhile, in their own call to the social partners, Sek called them and the state to respect employees by contributing to the improvement of the working environment.

Commenting on the CoLa compromise proposal, Sek’s general secretary Andreas Matsas said it should be “improved in terms of the gradual increase in the rate of the CoLa restoration” adding that it will work towards this direction.

The minimum national wage should also be revised, the trade union said, citing inflation.

It also noted how the new challenges and changes in the labour market call for a new productive model, in the context of the green and blue economy. “Issues interlinked with quality and dignity at work, occupational safety and health, investment in skills and certified standard qualifications should be key components of social dialogue and collective agreements,” Sek added.

Furthermore, Sek said, it is necessary to address the problem of violence, harassment and sexual harassment in the workplace, through the code developed by Sek with other social partners. This conduct code has been incorporated into collective agreements.

Speaking to reporters after the event, Oev head Michalis Antoniou echoed Matsas’ comments when he referred to the CoLa proposal. Saying “the scope is limited”, he said the proposal is substantially far from the aspirations of all organisations.

Despite this, the trade union owns it to the minister to assess responsibly the proposal, he added.

Sek’s event was also attended by House President Annita Demetriou and various MPs.

Trade union Peo also organised events in all districts with marches and artistic programmes, as well as a bicommunal event in the capital.

For its part, public primary teachers’ union Poed send a message of solidarity and highlighted the role of the education community in the struggles of workers in Cyprus and abroad.