The industrial dispute between low-wage civil servants and the government was settled “in the best possible way”, Finance Minister Permanent Secretary George Panteli said on Wednesday.
Panteli was speaking after the civil servants had taken a last-minute decision on Tuesday night to call off a planned 24-hour strike over what they perceived as inadequate pay, following an agreement reached between the government and trade unions which allows for civil servants to rise through government pay scales based on their years of service.
“There is an agreement, in principle, with which we will proceed immediately … which will ensure a fair payment, while also ensuring the sustainability of the state payroll,” he said.
He added, “we do not want to end up implementing practices from before the 2008 financial crisis, which led to the state payroll growing significantly year on year and turning it into a burden on public finances.”
In addition, he explained how the agreement would be implemented. He said adjustments would be made through the state budget and added that the arrangement “should be incorporated into legislation.”
He noted that some government institutions have already submitted their budgets for 2024, and that in these cases, there are two possible options to implement the agreement.
“Either they will submit a supplementary budget when possible within 2024, or they will submit an amendment before the final vote on their budget in parliament,” he said.
Trade union Isotita expressed their delight at the agreement, congratulating the Low-wage Civil Servants’ Initiative Group, its representative Lina Andreou, and everyone who contributed “to the success of the fight for … our low-wage colleagues”.
Isotita Chrairman Prodromos Christofi said “this victory is primarily down to your own persistence and determination. With your tireless fight, you managed to pressure the government to satisfy a righteous request.”
He added that his union was “simply doing its duty by supporting this fight”.
Low-wage civil servants had initially announced their intentions to strike on Saturday, saying their proposal to solve the issue had been met with verbal agreement from President Nikos Christodoulides but that a different counterproposal had then been submitted by the government.
“It creates the feeling we are being mocked,” they had said.
Confusion reigned on Tuesday morning when trade union Pasydy insisted on continuing its dialogue with the finance ministry while the workers themselves said the strike would go ahead.
Pasydy said on Monday they had “been in communication” with the president’s office on Monday and that the government had “reaffirmed its intention to resolve the issue”.
With the strike eventually called off, the government announced on Wednesday that Citizen Service Centres are operating as normal.