CYPRUS: Public sector contract staff escalate strike action

Public sector contract staff took to the streets on Monday at the start of a 48-hour strike over unfair pay and conditions.

Members of the newly founded Equality union (Isotita) which currently represents 2,800 civil servants, are on strike demanding equal treatment of contract staff in the wider public sector.

Hundreds marched from the Finance Ministry and headed for the Presidential Palace where they handed a memo to government spokesperson Prodromos Prodromou, who told them that the President is aware of their demands but was not available to meet them.

Equality members are to continue their industrial action, as the second day of their 48 hour strike will see them march from the Finance Ministry to parliament.

Affected by the 48-hour strike is the Citizen Service Centres, the office of the Registrar of Companies and the Official Receiver, the Land Registry, the courts, hospitals and post offices.

Members of the union, mainly contract staff, are protesting over inequality in the way they are treated by the government. The union claims that the state is in violation of an EU directive which instructs member states to treat contract staff equally with permanent staff.

Union chief Prodromos Christofi told the Financial Mirror it is calling on the government to respect EU rules, claiming that contract staff are discriminated against as they are not rewarded equally as fellow colleagues who are permanent staff.

Contract staff are evaluated only on four criteria with a maximum score of very satisfactory, whereas permanent staff are evaluated on 8 criteria with a maximum score of ‘excellent’. This means that contract staff are not eligible for any promotions, said Christofi.

He also noted that the EU does not allow member states to hire contract staff where there is a permanent need, noting that he has been a contract civil servant for the past 15 years at the same position.

Christofi said that authorities are not taking complaints from his union seriously, while taking retributive action against those who come forward to complain.

He said the union is calling for the government to come to the discussion table as it has so far refused to consult with them despite several memos and letters sent.

The union has exhausted all means they had at their disposal but the authorities have not responded to our pleas” said Christofi.

Some 6,000 public sector contract staff are affected by the unequal treatment, “that is one third of all civil servants”.

General secretary of Equality, Christos Hadjipavlou, said the union had met Finance Minister Harris Georgiades on Friday, where they were told that there were some demands the government cannot concede to.

“That is why we decided to strike, as there is no will or intention from the government to resolve the matter.”

Source: The Financial Mirror