Contract workers in the wider public sector, estimated at 17,000 people, some of whom on the frontline of key government services, went on strike this week with the new trade union ‘Isotita’ (Equality) demanding the obvious – equal treatment at the workplace.
This is not a case of reporting physical or mental abuse, but rather a minority of workers performing duties beyond their remit when the ‘colleague’ on the next desk can’t be bothered to pick up the phone.
There are hundreds of contract workers who do far more than anybody else, ultimately justifying the creation a decade ago of the Citizens’ Bureaus (KEP), with KEP desks now also embedded at the district post offices and thousands more working as support and administrative staff in hospitals and other public service departments.
There is no doubt that when it started, many were hired by the usual Cyprus method of who you know or which political party you belong to.
The hope was that these people would someday become permanent staff, enjoying all the benefits and relaxed working conditions of other civil servants.
But the economic crisis of 2012-2013, partly due to the runaway public sector debt, burdened by spiralling civil service wages, put an end to this dream and thus, political promises were not kept.
Now, the trade union Isotita wants the issue of promotions and pay scales to be resolved, which the Finance Minister said was the only stumbling block.
In fact, what they should have demanded was that equality, as their union name implies, go both ways.
In other words, to demand that where two people work in the same place with identical duties, should enjoy equal rights to promotion and reward, based on their productivity levels, a benchmark that the civil servants’ union PASYDY will never allow.
Clearly, the votes of 70,000 or more civil servants carry a greater weight than 17,000, mostly younger people, with small families, which is why the political parties do not want to consider for fear of losing the support of the civil servants.
Unfortunately, the contract workers, too, have become a closed shop, with those who are already in making sure they’ll stay there and shutting the door in the face of other newcomers for fear of better- qualified candidates vying for their jobs, which are contract-based and expendable. Or are they?