The government on Monday asked MPs to hold off on pushing through a legislative proposal that would end the ban on new recruitments in the public sector concerning promotion positions or positions of initial appointment.

In parliament, both the finance ministry and the attorney-general’s office said they needed to vet the bill – tabled jointly by Disy and Diko – to ensure it does not clash with the constitution.

The concern is that unlocking these appointments might lead to growing the state budget. MPs are not permitted to introduce legislation that increases public expenditures.

The previous administration of Nicos Anastasiades had tabled a bill that would have scrapped entirely the freeze on appointments in the public sector.

It would have been a break with the policy in place since the 2013 financial crisis, when a freeze on new recruitments in the public sector was instituted. Ever since, positions in the public sector have been filled by way of exemption, with the government periodically bringing requests to parliament – and which are typically rubberstamped by MPs.

However on coming into office the current government withdrew that bill – a move that angered trade unions representing workers in the central government and the broader public sector. The withdrawal also led Disy and Diko to table their own proposal.

This proposal is not an outright ending of the general ban on new recruitments – it relates only to reinstating promotion positions or positions of initial appointment.

At the House finance committee on Monday, Andreas Elia, head of the OIO-SEK trade union, went a step further – he argued for the unlocking of all new recruitments for semi-governmental organisations like CyTA and the EAC.

Because these organisations face competition in their respective sectors, said Elia, any constraints on hiring should be removed. Otherwise, they’d have to resort to bringing in fixed-term employees who, in time, would become employees on indefinite-duration contracts.

A rep for the PEO union accused the present administration of lacking the “decency” to inform them about the withdrawal of the prior government bill that would have ended the freeze on recruitments – they had to hear about it in the media.

Opposition MPs meanwhile were unconvinced by the government’s argument that it withdrew the prior bill because it wanted to contain the public payroll.

Akel’s Christos Christofides remarked that, were this the government’s true concern, it would not have okayed dozens of secondments of civil servants to the presidential palace on high salaries.