Apr 5, 2021 10:35 am Ibrar Younas 2158


Taken from this week's issue


TRADE Unions are planning a one-day general strike on Thursday, April 8, in protest at the government’s handling of the economy during the Covid-19 pandemic and the decision on April 1 to freeze the cost of living increases of public worker salaries for four months.

A general strike and march to Parliament is being planned by Cyprus Turkish Civil Servants Trade Union (KTAMS), Cyprus Turkish Public Servants Union (Kamu-Sen), Cyprus Turkish Public Works Union (Kamu-İş), the Union of Income and Tax Office Employees (Vergi-Sen) and the Cyprus Turkish Nurses and Midwives Union. 

Another union, Hak-Sen announced it is taking legal action against the government for freezing the cost of living allowance. 

Speaking to Cyprus Today, KTAMS chairman Güven Bengihan said: “The trade unions represent the entire public sector. Everyone will be on strike that day at the [Koop] bank, public departments, tax offices, customs, and hospitals - excluding emergency departments.

“We will abruptly stop the flights or go on strike in other essential places. . . We will make our own April Fool’s Day joke.

“We are protesting against the freeze placed on the cost of living allowance [for public sector worker salaries] for a four-month period, enacted through a legislative decree by the Government, for the period of March 1 to June 30. 

“This is unacceptable and represents the last straw, coming on top of their mishandling of the economy during the pandemic period. . .people are hungry and unable to afford education.”

Mr Bengihan said the “shock protests” are also being planned before Thursday.

“We will not tolerate the government putting its hand in the pockets of ordinary workers,” he added.

Kamu-Sen head Metin Atan said: “If the government disregards us, then we will disregard the government.”

Mr Atan said the decision to freeze the cost of living payment is a “breaking point” and that “this government has no choice but to go”.

Kamu-İş president Ahmet Serdaroğlu argued that the decision taken by the Council of Ministers by issuing a decree “was not legal” and explained that when Parliament was in session the Constitutional Court had annulled a previous decision taken by decree. 

The decision that the cost of living allowance will be “zero” for four months means the rights of public sector employees and retirees who receive low pensions, have been cut back, Mr Serdaroğlu stated.

The cost of living allowance is “not an increase in salary as many have tried to say” he pointed out, but is “provided due to a decrease in purchasing power coupled with an increase in the cost of services”.

Mr Serdaroglu said that if the cost of living allowance is not going to be paid then “interventions must be made in the cost of goods and services.”

Cyprus Turkish Workers’ Union head Arslan Bıçaklı agreed that the move was “unacceptable” particularly due to the “soaring foreign currency exchange rates” which have led to “automatic and extreme price increases on all consumer  goods”.