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Our View: There can be no consultation on civil service sick leave

The government wants to reduce annual sick leave from a staggering 42 (two months) to 28 days

We wonder if there are many countries in the world in which the legislature feels duty-bound to discuss the number of days of annual sick leave that is granted to public sector workers. Is it a matter of such political and social significance that the finance ministry needed to present the proposed new regulations governing sick leave to the House finance committee, as if it were an industrial arbitration body that would decide if they were fair and make its own mediation proposals?

The committee also had to invite the representative of the ombudswoman’s office, who said the updating and standardising of the regulations was long overdue, but felt the government’s consultations should have been broader and not restricted to talks with the civil servants’ union Pasydy. This was a complaint expressed by all representatives of unions invited to the committee meeting to discuss the regulations. Of course, they all disagreed with what the government had agreed with Pasydy and wanted their say.

In other words, to standardise regulations, the employer – the state – would have had to engage in consultations with another half a dozen or more unions and try to find a compromise that was acceptable to all of them, although each had different demands. Does anyone seriously believe that these broadened consultations could yield a result? All the parties, which consider it a national duty to pander to unions, seemed to think so.

The chairwoman of the committee Christina Erotokritou believed dialogue had not been exhausted, while Disy deputy Harris Georgiades underlined the need for more dialogue with the interested parties. Akel deputy Andreas Kafkalias endorsed union reservations to amendments to long-term sick leave, while Disy’s Savia Orphanidou raised the need for more days leave for psychological reasons, period pains and premature menopause.

Ironically, the main reason the government decided to change the sick leave regulations in the public sector was to curtail systematic abuses and differential treatment, yet deputies are supporting additional dialogue that would prevent this from happening. The government wants to reduce annual sick leave from a staggering 42 (two months) to 28 days and sick days without a doctor’s certificate from 8 to 6. The nursing unions want 42 to remain and sick days without a doctor’s note to increase to 10, while Asdyk union opposed the uncertified sick days to be subtracted from the annual sick leave entitlement.

The broadened consultations all the parties are advocating will ensure the regulations are never updated or standardised, which is exactly what the unions want. Abusing sick leave entitlement has become a public employee’s right, a worker’s conquest, that gives them another two months’ fully paid holiday, given the ease with which most doctors sign them off work. The government should ignore the suggestion of the parties for an interminable dialogue with all the unions and impose regulations. It should argue its case by presenting data on the sick leave abuses and the cost to the taxpayer.

The abuses will not end through consultation but only through confrontation, even if the House mediation service does not approve of it.


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