The introduction of a national minimum wage is up in the air, as social partners appear to be dangerously drifting apart, instead of converging, after meeting President Nicos Anastasiades.
The sides were expected to add the final touches to the proposal for a national minimum wage following months of negotiations with the late Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou.
Following Tuesday’s meeting, trade unionists blamed employers for introducing last-minute changes, and employers argued that nothing was set in stone from previous discussions.
The clash comes as President Anastasiades was set to announce the introduction of the national minimum wage, honouring Emilianidou’s memory and hard work.
But agreement on calculating the minimum wage is m issuing, as unions claim that employers are essentially demanding that negotiations are reset from the beginning.
Unions, including ruling DISY affiliated SEK, main opposition AKEL affiliated PEO and social democrats DEOK, all said they were disappointed to hear employers table new demands, which had not come up before.
The thorniest issue between the two sides is whether the national median wage will be based on the calculations of the statistical service, which are lower than the EU Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC) cross-sectional and longitudinal sample survey.
The chair of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI), Christodoulos Angastiniotis, told the media the difference between the estimates of the two bodies is around €150.
As explained, the minimum wage is to be set at 50% or 60% of the median wage.
However, the Cyprus Statistical Service finds the median wage to be €1,573, while the EU-SILC European survey calculates it at €1,727, 9% higher than CyStat.
If CyStat’s calculation of the median wage is taken as a base, it could range from €786 to €943.
Currently, a minimum wage applies to just nine occupations, set at €870, and reaches €924 after six months of employment.
Angastiniotis told reporters that President Anastasiades was adamant about the national minimum wage being calculated based on CyStat data.
Reportedly, the matter has more than one sticking point, as reports employers want to exclude a larger number of professions than originally agreed.
Within the framework agreed during negotiations under the late minister, only workers in farming, housemaids and sailors on Cyprus flag ships would be excluded.
Furthermore, employers believe that experience should also play a role in determining the minimum wage.
The trade unions state that the national minimum wage needs to reflect today’s conditions, not those of the past.
The General Secretary of SEK, Andreas Matsas, said: “We have taken steps backwards”.
Meanwhile, the government appeared confident that an agreement on the minimum wage would be reached in the coming months.
Government spokesperson Marios Pelekanos confirmed that due to differences between employers’ organisations and the trade unions, the President requested that dialogue be continued under the new Minister of Labour, Kyriacos Koushos.
Pelekanos said that with a demonstration of goodwill from the parties involved, these differences could be bridged.
President Anastasiades is committed to delivering a national minimum wage before his term ends in February.