Cypriot workers are worse off than they were 10 years ago as their wages are lower compared to 2010 average earnings, claims the Independent Civil Servants Union (ASDYK).
In an announcement, quoting latest Eurostat data, the union claims that the average wage in Cyprus dropped in 2018 to €1,837 compared to 2010’s €1,890.
It called Cyprus the “champion in wage reductions, which continued during the pandemic”.
ASDYK said data showed that in 2020 hourly labour costs decreased by 3.8%, compared to the previous year while average salaries in the EU increased by 1.8%.
Available data for Cyprus shows that in 2020 there was a reduction, both of salaries (-0.8%) and benefits (-17.4%).
“All employees, both state and as well as in the private sector, have paid an extremely hefty price (for crises) in recent years and continue to pay and therefore, there is no room for further wage squeezing,” said the union.
Employers are calling for wage cuts to combat setbacks brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, to focus on their businesses, and find ways to survive and recover, drawing on the profits of previous years.
The union claimed that in 2019 alone, the savings of Cypriot businesses increased by about €1 bln while taxes owed by businesses to the state increased by several hundred million.
“While, based on the statistics, salaries and benefits have been frozen, at the same time, the cost of living of a family in our country is increasing disproportionately.”
ASDYK argues that owning a home is out of reach for the vast majority of Cypriots.
“The rapid growth of the construction sector with towers and luxury villas has inflated house prices to unprecedented heights”.
ASDYK called on employees to be ready to protect their rights, as a possible reduction in wages in the public sector will eventually roll down to the private sector.
Cyprus is one of six EU countries that does not have a national minimum wage.
A majority 21 of the 27 EU states have national minimum wages: only Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland, and Sweden do not have any.
Currently, only nine professions in Cyprus are protected by a minimum wage which is set by Labour Ministry decree.
A minimum wage applies to the following professions: clerks, nursing assistants, kindergarten and nursery school assistants, school aides and carers.
It starts at €870 gross a month and rises to €924 after six months.
Last week, the Cabinet announced it will seek a social dialogue for introducing a national minimum wage in Cyprus when unemployment drops to around 5%.
Deputy Government Spokesman Panayiotis Sentonas reaffirmed the government’s position to start a social dialogue for a national minimum wage when full employment conditions are reached.
He said the Ministry of Labour has completed all relevant studies on the issue.
They include the ways of introducing the national minimum wage and quantitative surveys of its effects on the labour market, social policy, but also on the economy.
Sentonas acknowledged that as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic, employment conditions have deteriorated.
Before the pandemic unemployment was at 6%, which was very close to full employment conditions, the unemployment rate has risen to 8% mainly due to the severe impact on the tourism sector.