Trade unions will submit their final position on the cost of living allowance (CoLA) payment in the coming days, Labour Minister Yiannis Panayiotou said on Wednesday after a meeting with union officials on the dispute.
The labour minister handed over his final positions on the compromise CoLA proposal with some differences following the comments that emerged when it was first presented last week.
According to reports, the proposal provides for the same increase in CoLA, to 66.67 per cent from the current 50 per cent, and the renewal of the 2017 interim agreement for three years. It also retains the payment of raises to employees as of June 1, in line with 2022 inflation.
How it differs is the timeline that the minister had set for completing the discussions to reach a comprehensive agreement. That is, instead of developing a structured social dialogue by the end of 2025 to reach a comprehensive agreement, completed by June of that year.
“The possibilities of adjusting [the initial proposal] had already been outlined in relation to the fact it must be mutually acceptable, any changes or differences must not adversely affect public finances,” Panayiotou said.
He noted the final positions as outlined to social partners were moving in this direction, while “any minor differences are already commonly understood and respected as such”.
But, he added that he was optimistic that employers’ and trade unions’ responses will be positive, without elaborating further.
“I would prefer, because we are in the final phase of an important effort, to avoid repeating or relaying the content of the debate that is taking place. Let us wait to see how things develop over the next few days,” he said.
The minister explained the social partners have sought to bring results that are as close as possible to their own positions. “But the final positions have been put before them and we are very respectfully awaiting the final positions,” he said.
The trade unions will take the minister’s final positions to their bodies and are expected to make their decisions by Friday, the Cyprus News Agency reported.
Discussions are also expected to take place within the collective bodies of unions and employers who have not yet taken a position.
Asked when he was expected to meet with employers’ organisations, the minister said there had been communication throughout the previous days and whatever was needed in parallel or in addition to assist the process would be done.
The meeting with trade unions Pasydy, Sek, Peo and Deok took place at noon. As a result, trade unions postponed a scheduled meeting that was to be held on Wednesday to discuss the same issue. Another all-union meeting is not expected to be rescheduled.
Although the unions initially rejected the minister’s compromise proposal, the labour minister said on Tuesday that some union representatives have already decided on a positive direction while others “are still in the process of evaluating the data”.
He also noted that no one can achieve everything that they think is right through a compromise, stressing the need to ensuring stability and industrial peace, essential for economic growth.
The cost of living adjustment, implemented since 1944, was suspended after the 2013 crisis and partially reinstated in 2018. Trade unions and employers’ organisations had entered discussions following the expiration of a deal struck in July 2017 that provided for employers to pay 50 per cent of CoLA.