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Lowest paid state workers left in limbo

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A public sector labour crisis may have been averted as the government sees eye to eye with unions representing civil servants campaigning for pay raises for 9,000 low-paid state workers.

The Finance Ministry confirmed that an agreement was reached with unions PASYDY, SEK, the previous night and was signed Tuesday morning.

However, despite the agreement initially being supported by AKEL-affiliated PEO, the left-wing trade union did not sign and said it would oppose it in parliament, as a thousand workers at the lowest pay scale had been left out of the deal.

Finance Minister Makis Keravnos said that the agreement was reached as, “both the ministry and President Nikos Christodoulides acknowledge that as things stand today, lower paid civil servants should be upgraded, balancing out the payroll scale”.

The agreement provides for the acceleration of salary progression for public sector employees within the combined A 2-5-7 scale.

A crucial point in reaching the agreement was the Ministry’s commitment to initiate and conclude dialogue with the trade unions by 2024 to find a solution for employees covered by an even lower scale, the combined A 1-2-5 scale.

According to the ministry’s proposal, civil servants in the A 2-5-7 category would reach the ceiling of the A7 scale within 18 years, instead of the 23.5 years previously required.

Promotion will be accelerated from A2 to A5 in eight years, and from A5 to A7 also in eight years.

An additional two years will be added, corresponding to the 10% salary cut of civil servants and broader public sector employees brought on in 2012 with the implementation of the island’s bailout programme.

Approximately 9,000 permanent and indefinite-term employees in the A 2-5-7 scale are expected to benefit from the preliminary agreement by 2024.

Employees in the combined A 1-2-5 scale will also see efforts made within 2024 to achieve a similar agreement.

The annual cost to the state funds for meeting the demand for the acceleration of progression of low-wage public servants is estimated between €26 mln and €29 mln.

Not all on board

Despite an initial agreement, PEO was not present at Tuesday’s signing ceremony, claiming that the deal leaves about a thousand civil servants stuck at the starting point of the public service scale (A1).

A leading PEO official told the Financial Mirror that the Ministry’s proposal leaves the lowest-paid workers, the most in need of a pay rise, on the cutting room floor.

The agreement needs parliamentary approval, as it will affect the 2024 state budget. PEO told the Financial Mirror that they will be calling on MPs to reject the proposal.

“PEO considers that the service description for A 1-2-5 low-wage workers as included in the government agreement with trade unions should not be included in the deal,” said the PEO representative.

Low-paid civil servants, as claimed by the unions, currently take home between €1,100 and €1,500 after a decade of continuous service. Private sector net salaries, according to surveys, average slightly below €1,500.