Finance Minister Makis Keravnos and trade unions reiterated on Wednesday the need to hire more civil servants after the House finance committee this week refused to approve over 1,800 positions.

The move will not require additional costs to the state budget because the positions are already approved, Keravnos told CyBC radio.

He said he is willing to negotiate with MPs for the number of positions that will become available.

In last year’s state budget proposal for 2023, former president Nicos Anastasiades’ cabinet had said that funds were needed for 1,851 jobs in the civil service and broader public sector.

Christodoulides’ cabinet had approved the number of positions during a meeting in April.

However, parliament refused to back them as this would mean a massive hiring reminiscent of pre-crisis times.

Despite this, trade unions said the 1,851 posts are necessary and demanded parliament to implement the 2022 agreement signed between Pasydy, Peo and Sek unions and the finance ministry. The deal provides for the abolishing of the hiring freeze introduced after the 2013 financial crisis.

Pasydy general secretary Stratis Mattheou told the Cyprus News Agency these are not additional posts but posts already provided for in the budget which need to be filled. He explained that the procedures to lift the hiring freeze are lengthy, and the posts are not expected to be filled in two or six months.

For his part, the Sidekek-Peo general secretary Nikos Gregoriou said that as a result of this pause on hires, state departments are purchasing services from private companies or individuals. This has also caused dysfunctions and serious understaffing in some agencies, he noted.

The finance minister highlighted the importance of making positions available in the public service in light of the country holding the presidency of the European Union Council in 2026.

Opposition Disy MP and former finance minister Harris Georgiades criticised the proposal, saying that hiring almost 2,000 civil servants would be a step backward.

Among the 1,851 positions, there are posts related to the wider public sector and local government which are absolutely necessary, said secretary of Oeo-Sek Andreas Elia.

“The necessary control, both by the government and parliament is exercised during the approval of budgets, which includes the necessary posts for the operation of departments, agencies and the state in general,” he said.

All three union leaders called on MPs to pass the bill according to the unions’ agreement with the finance ministry to put an end to the hiring freeze.

Deok union’s Andreas Antoniou said since these positions have been approved in this year’s budget “we cannot see why the House finance committee is insisting and raising various issues as to the filling of the posts.”

He then charged that “it is not the business of the House how the government and its staffing will work” and therefore no documentation of the necessity of the positions is needed. “The needs are there,” he said.