Strike at de­sal plant first of many


Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Work­ers at the Li­mas­sol de­sali­na­tion plant went on strike this week, de­mand­ing a re-in­state­ment of their wages that were trimmed in 2013, when water de­mand had been lower, due to bet­ter rain­fall and the sub­se­quent fill­ing up of dams.

Now, the work­ers at the op­er­a­tor Li­mas­sol Water Co., say they are work­ing at full ca­pac­ity in or­der to meet de­mand be­cause of lower rain­fall in the past year and the dams near­ing their low­est lev­els in years.

How­ever, both sides seem to have vi­o­lated the col­lec­tive agree­ments, with the em­ploy­ers cut­ting back not only on wages, but also on con­tri­bu­tions, while the union-led work­ers have bla­tantly bro­ken the labour code by re­ject­ing the me­di­a­tion of­fer put for­ward by the Min­istry of Labour.

Once again, this walk­out raises the ur­gency of reg­u­lat­ing strikes due to labour dis­putes at es­sen­tial ser­vices, as water un­doubt­edly is a pre­cious com­mod­ity that con­trib­utes not only to well­be­ing, but its ab­sence ham­pers the na­tional health stan­dards.

The Min­istry me­di­a­tors failed to con­vince the work­ers to ac­cept the new of­fer, that in­cluded rene­go­ti­at­ing a new 3-year agree­ment, as the union reps are prob­a­bly dig­ging their heels and pre­par­ing for more strikes.

This is what hap­pens when the state fool­ishly boasts that Cyprus has suc­cess­fully ex­ited the mem­o­ran­dum as part of the three-year bailout agree­ment with in­ter­na­tional lenders, prompt­ing trade unions and vote-hun­gry po­lit­i­cal par­ties to call for the re­in­state­ment of all wages to their pre-2013 lev­els. Af­ter all, let’s not for­get that it was the reck­less be­hav­iour of politi­cians and past gov­ern­ments in dish­ing out gen­er­ous pay hikes to civil ser­vants that trig­gered sim­i­lar in­creases in the pri­vate sec­tor, all of which were un­re­lated to pro­duc­tiv­ity lev­els.

The strike at the de­sali­na­tion plant, fol­low­ing threats of walk outs by teach­ers just days be­fore schools opened, is the start of labour tur­moil that will fol­low, as trade unions are adamant that na­tional wages should in­crease and should be paid for by tax­ing high earn­ers and busi­nesses. Déjà vu per­haps?

The next few months will show whether the present ad­min­is­tra­tion, hav­ing back­tracked on many dec­la­ra­tions and prom­ises, will also give in to union de­mands, as the De­cem­ber mu­nic­i­pal elec­tions, although po­lit­i­cally mean­ing­less, will be an in­di­ca­tion of party strengths lead­ing to the pres­i­den­tial polls in Fe­bru­ary 2018.

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