Cyprus Mail

Government must do more to counter cost of living crisis, say unions (Updated)

zero vat, supermarket, food prices, baby food
(Photo: Christos Theodorides)

The vulnerable section of society is much larger than official statistics show and more must be done to tackle the cost of living, major trade unions said on Wednesday.

A joint announcement stated that it must finally be realised that one in two workers earn less than €1,500 and one in four earn less than €1,100.

“It’s time for us to put before the leadership its responsibilities to enact effective solutions,” general secretary of trade union SEK Andreas Matsas said.

His call on the government came as all major trade unions including SEK, PEO and Pasydy and key civil organisations met to discuss inflation and the cost of living, plotting a path forward.

Matsas said the meeting proves that the measures so far have not been targeted enough, have failed to achieve the promised results, and that society is united in its call for solutions.

“We all understand that in addition to the horizontal measures that must have the final recipients of society as a whole, there is also the chance to define more targeted measures, which are aimed at specific groups of the population. There is a clear and substantial failure of the state to capture in practice who these vulnerable groups of the population are,” he said.

He cited the recent decision to reduce the defence contribution rate to 17 per cent on deposits as an example.

“Those who actually benefit from this measure are the small group of the population who have a significant amount of deposits in the banks. A horizontal measure that unfortunately does not have any positive impact on the mass of workers and society in general.”

For its part, however, the government has warned that a recession is looming in Europe, that Brussels has some of the tools needed to tackle the issues – such as setting interest rates – and that it has already acted to help the most vulnerable.

It has also consistently stated that the most pressing factors are the result of global trends.

Following the meeting, the unions said that all involved agreed that the measures taken so far have not yielded the desired results, and reiterated their call for the government to define and implement a comprehensive anti-inflationary policy, and more to support low and middle incomes and vulnerable groups of the population.

The unions presented a list of proposals for measures, that includes reductions in electricity costs and fuel prices through subsidies or tax cuts, as well as the reduction of the prices of basic consumer goods through the expansion of the zero-VAT list.

The unions also propose immediate measures to reduce lending rates, and said the government should study the possibility of taxing the surplus profits accumulated by banks and using the revenues generated for the benefit of social policy, “which is constantly in deficit”.

They also recommend effective control to combat corruption and promote transparency.

“In times of high inflation, it is a common phenomenon in the market that there are cases of profiteering, misleading advertisements and other types of unfair commercial practices,” they said, asking for more widespread monitoring in the market.

“The organisations have decided to immediately request a meeting with President Nikos Christodoulides to discuss the above issues, the outcome of which will be evaluated accordingly,” the statement finally said, noting that unions will proceed with a campaign to inform their members about these issues.


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