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Peo union calls for economic and social equality

Peo, trade union, Christodoulides, president
Peo trade union leadership met President Christodoulides

Those who benefited from the result of the high growth rates of recent years, to which the workers contributed decisively, were not the majority of society, Peo said on Thursday as the union called for higher wages, pensions and measures to mitigate inflation.

The union leadership met in the morning with President Nikos Christodoulides to lay down their views on what is amiss in the labour and social welfare sector. In a lengthy statement presented to the president, Peo said that in recent years, economic and social inequalities in Cyprus had widened dramatically.

“We were led to this result because of the economic policies that were implemented, the policies of wage suppression, deregulation of work and shrinking of the welfare state,” Peo leader Sotiroulla Charalambous said in the statement.

It covered minimum wage, cost of living allowance, low pensions, collective agreements, policies for hiring third-country nationals, the gig economy, tax reforms, the gender pay gap, and housing policies.

Peo said the minimum wage rules that came into effect this year, need to be changed. According to reports, though employers are complying with the regulation, they often force their employee to work longer hours instead.

The union wants the monthly minimum changed to an hourly rate, and the working week set at a maximum of 38 hours to prevent such abuses.

“The above arrangements need to be promoted immediately and independently of the minimum wage revision process provided for in the decree,” the union said.

It also said that “in the spirit of the EU directive” on the minimum wage 80 per cent of workers should be covered by collective agreements.

Peo called for a dialogue between the social partners with the aim of reducing the gender wage gap, concluding collective agreements in sectors that do not have them and having such agreements in sectors that are allowed to employ workers from third countries so that exploitation can be abolished.

Another big issue for the union is “combating the concealment of the employer-employee relationship” by the use of the services market and other forms of employment “aimed at disguising the employer-employee relationship by replacing permanent jobs with precarious positions”.

On pensions, Peo wants to see an end to the 12 per cent cut in pensions for people who retire at 63 rather than 65 once they have paid in their 33 years of contributions to social insurance.  Provident funds, it said, could act as a second pension pillar to ensure adequate income after retirement.

The recent agreement to restore around two thirds of the cost of living allowance, rather than 50 per cent, was still transitional until a final deal could be reached for full restoration, the union said.

“We expect from your government, taking into account your pre-election positions, that you will act in such a way that the dialogue immediately begins as defined by the transitional agreement,” the union told the president.

In the meantime, to mitigate inflation, the union suggests abolishing double taxation on fuel, the continued electricity subsidies and implementing a price ceiling on basic goods.

It also said that the cost of owning or renting a home is unaffordable, especially young families. “It is now necessary to develop an integrated housing policy that is based on today’s realities,” the union said.

“As an immediate palliative measure, we recommend improving the rental subsidy schemes for vulnerable groups to cover the rent increase,” Peo concluded.

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