By Kyriacos Kyriacou-Nicosia
A 12-hour general strike in the public and broader public sector scheduled for tomorrow Friday over the government`s intention to tax retirement bonuses has been postponed following a meeting between the public sector`s trade unions with the President of the Republic Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday.
Public sector trade union`s, comprising PASIDY (public sector employees), OELMEK (teachers trade union), POED (primary education teachers) and OLTEK (secondary technical education) met with President Anastasiades who assured them that the government has no intention to impose salary cuts or reduce pension benefits.
It is worth reminding that civil servants` trade unions had decided to stage the 24-hour strike on Friday after recent statements made by Minister of Finance regarding further cuts in salaries and pensions of public sector employees. The government seems to have changed its stance on the issue possible due to fears that a public sector “paralysis” could affect negatively the economic recovery of Cyprus, a country under a euro bailout program.
“No intension of taxing”
“On behalf of the government it was reaffirmed that there is no intention of taxing pension bonuses or further reducing pensions and salaries of the public sector employees,” Government Spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said in statements following the meeting.
He noted that they agreed to continue discussions to explore ways to secure the fundamental pension rights while safeguarding public finances` sustainability.
On his part, Glafcos Hadjipetrou, General Secretary of PASIDY, said the trade unions “were given explanations that lifted some misunderstandings.”
Despite meeting Finance Minister Harris Georgiades yesterday, PASIDY insisted on staging the 12-hour strike.
“The President of the Republic reaffirmed that there is no issue for taxing the civil servants` retirement bonuses or imposing further salary and pension cuts on the public sector employees,” Hadjipetrou said adding that after these clarifications “there is no reason to stage tomorrow`s strike.”
Five annual instalments
Replying to a question, Hadjipetrou said there are thoughts for a change in the payment of retirement bonuses, with press reports suggesting that the retirement bonuses could be paid in five annual instalments.
OELMEK, POED and OLTEK issued press releases announcing that they suspended the strike scheduled for tomorrow.
Furthermore, trade unions of the semi-governmental organisations, OIO SEK and SIDIKEK PEO announced they also decided to call off their mobilization, after a meeting Georgiades yesterday.
Georgiades told the trade unions that there is no intention of taxing retirement bonuses noting however that an increase of the broader public sector health care contribution and the targeting of social pension are under consideration.
The discussions come as the government prepares to present the 2015 state budget, the second budget since Cyprus entered a €10 billion financial assistance package.