Strike at desal plant first of many
E DII TO RII A L
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.