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Health minister working to break Okypy-union stalemate

popi kanari
Health Minister Popi Kanari

Health Minister Popi Kanari is making efforts on Monday to resolve the stalemate over pay structure between public hospital workers and state health services organisation Okypy.

The health minister stepped into the fray on Friday following criticism for her silence and announced she would be holding separate meetings this week with the six unions and their employer.

The amount of the structured pay rises seems to be the issue which it is hoped will offer leverage for a breakthrough.

Disagreement over pay reached a fever pitch last week, with unions calling into question whether Okypy was a viable entity and whether the health services should not revert back to being managed under health ministry.

Since last week, Okypy has been hammering out various scenarios to propose to the unions, after first putting them before the minister, who has already given clear cues as to intentions.

Kanari emphasised from the get-go that the state has no choice but to act within the current legal framework governing the operation of Okypy, and that the ministry was in accord with the organisation that granting a public servant wage structure to new hires was not on the table.

Meetings have been scheduled for Tuesday between the minister and the two parties. It is hoped that common ground will be found for renewed dialogue and avoid escalated strike measures threatened by the unions.

Failing this the labour minister or President Nikos Christodoulides will intervene calling all stake holders to a general meeting.

The crux of the disagreement concerns around 1,200 out of a total of around 7,500 health service employees, and centres on the fact that Okypy, in its trajectory to become self-sustaining, placed new hires on personal contracts with a different pay rise agreement than that of older employees, classed as public servants.

The unions claim that this sets up two-tier renumeration for equal work and will result in a transient workforce, which will in turn affect staffing levels and quality.

The audit service said on Thursday that suggestions that Okypy was reducing its operational costs were wrong.

“The number of patients is constantly being reduced and operational costs are increasing. Dozens of doctors have annual earnings exceeding €150,000,” it stated.

Meanwhile, the service is preparing two reports on the public health sector, one on Okypy, set to be published in January, and another on the Nicosia general hospital due at the end of November.

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