Unions call for general strike

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Trade unions declared islandwide strike action on January 26, following a deadlock in negotiations with employers and the Labour Ministry over the reinstatement of inflation-linked Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA).

The industrial action will see the economy shut down on January 26 for three hours (11 am to 2 pm), 10 days before voters head to the ballots to elect the next President.

Unions decided to go ahead with strike action following a meeting held by the Labour Ministry in an ongoing attempt to stave off unrest and bridge the gap between the two sides.

Tuesday’s talks failed to find a compromise over a new agreement on CoLA following the expiration of the 2018-2020 agreement.

Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushios appeared frustrated over the outcome of the meeting that lasted a mere 27 minutes.

Koushios said afterwards: “I consider that the distance that exists is so great that it does not give me any room to submit a proposal that has the slightest hope of being accepted”.

The minister said the trade unions had led him to believe they were ready to accept a gradual reinstatement of CoLA.

In contrast, the employers accepted the agreement of July 2017 and undertook to implement it, that is, payment of 50%.

Following the developments, Koushios surrendered, knowing the next government would have to deal with it.

“I am sure that the new labour minister will continue the efforts to find a mutually acceptable solution.”

The unions announced that they would proceed with a general strike on January 26 to protect the institution of the automatically adjusted allowance that many in the private sector do not get.

A joint statement said: “Employers are pushing us to take strike action as they did not respect their signature on the 2017 transitional agreement to restore the philosophy of the CoLA agreement and have ignored the purchasing power of workers’ wages has been eaten away by inflation which has increased in the last year by 8.71%”.

Employers’ organisations appealed to the unions to avoid resorting to measures that will worsen the climate, urging them to continue consultations immediately after the assumption of the new government.

“It is impossible for businesses to take on additional cost at a time in which they are fighting for their survival”.