European Trade Union Institute, ETUI.

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Industrial relations in Cyprus: background summary

This summary deals only with the EU Member State of Cyprus, the Greek-Cypriot south of the island.

  • Trade union membership in general is quite high, although it decreased during the last decades; official statistics estimate that by 2011 union density had dropped below 50%. The ILO-database indicates a trade union density of 47.7% for 2014. For the period 2011-2015, trade unions experienced a further decline in density, with a stabilisation after 2016.
  • There are three main national trade union confederations: the Democratic Labour Federation of Cyprus (DEOK), the Pancyprian Federation of Labour (PEO) and the Cyprus Employees Confederation (SEK). A fourth umbrella organization, the Pancyprian Federation of Independent Trade Unions (POAS) unites some independent unions mainly active in state-owned enterprises, with an observer status in the Labour Advisory Body.
  • The national trade union confederations have affiliates in several industries, with no exact public/private sector membership figures. Autonomous unions represent public sector workers, teachers and bank employees, such as the Union of Cyprus Banking Employees (ETYK). Three public sector unions are active: the Organisation of Greek Secondary Education Teachers (OELMEK), the Pancyprian Union of Public Servants (PASYDY) and the Pancyprian Organisation of Greek Teachers (POED). A 4th public sector union, the Independent Union of Cyprus' Public Employees (ASDYK) was established in November 2014 as a result of a split from PASYDY.
  • The employers’ organisations are bundled in two national confederations, the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) and the Cyprus Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB). CCCI was founded in 1927 and a new structure under the present name was adopted in 1963. CCCI claims to organise 8,000 enterprises from the whole spectrum of business activity, with more than 140 associations affiliated from trade, industry and services sectors. OEB, founded in 1960, derives its members from all economic sectors and claims to employ more than 60% of the private sector’s workforce. There are no reliable data on the organisational density.
  • Influential employers’ organisations at sectoral level are the Federation of Associations of Building Contractors Cyprus (OSEOK, OEB-member), the Association of Cyprus Tourist Enterprises (STEK, also OEB-affiliate), and the Cyprus Hotels Association (PASYXE, member of CCCI).
  • The country has no specific criteria for defining the representativeness of employers’ associations and trade unions. The only statutory regulation is the obligation for trade unions and employer associations to register with the official Trade Union Registrar at the Department of Labour Relations (DLR) of the Labour Ministry, that also provides mediation services for the settlement of labour disputes in private and semi-government sectors. In 2014, three trade union confederations and two employers’ organisations at national level were registered.
  • However, social partnerships may be developed at the national, sectoral (industry-wide), and company level, with the best developed social dialogue at company and national level. The main national institution for social dialogue and most important mechanism for tripartite representation is the Labour Advisory Board (LAB) within the Ministry of Labour. The system of social dialogue was challenged by some trade unions, mainly single-sector unions like ETYK. The main criticism was that representation was restricted to a small number of trade unions, at confederation level only, but without the participation of all confederations (Eurofound – Living and working in Cyprus, 2017).
  • The implementation of most policies regarding industrial relations is the result of dialogue between the government, the employer organisations and the trade unions. In the autumn of 2017, a tripartite agreement was signed that led to the reintroduction of the payment of the Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA). The CoLA system was terminated as part of the austerity measures that were introduced in the bailout. The COLA is paid in the private sector from 1 January 2018 for a three-year transitional period.
  • Collective bargaining takes place at sectoral and at company level. Itis enshrined in the industrial relations code that was agreed at national level between employers, unions and government in 1977. The code includes procedures for dispute-settlement and some key mutual commitments, such as acceptance of the right to organise and the right to bargain. The document is not legally binding but its terms have been effectively observed by both sides. In 2016, it was estimated that just over half of all employees in Cyprus were covered by collective bargaining. Precise figures are not available. Contracts usually last for 2 years, but a renewal of contracts with a shorter or (very rare) longer term is negotiable between parties. The Department of Labour Relations has a collective agreement archive; however, this is not updated after 2014. In 2011, DLR had listed 19 industry level agreements in the private sector on its website, including agreements for construction, banking, private hospitals and the clothing industry. According to the ILO database (2014), almost 50 % of employees are covered by collective wage bargaining.
  • The workers’ voice at the workplace is settled through the union representation. The industrial relations code refers to consultation rights stating that an employer should engage in joint consultation in any case where a union or the workers believe that decisions may adversely affect workers or may have a repercussion on their relations with their employer. Although legislation in 2005 introduced rights that can be derived from the EU directive on information and consultation, in practice, local union bodies deal with grievances brought to them by workers, with day-to-day workplace issues and management proposals. Workers have no legal right to be represented at board level.
  • Workers have the right to elect a health and safety committee in workplaces with more than 10 workers. The committee is chaired by the employer or his/her representative. In firms with 5 to 10 workers, it is obligatory to elect at least one safety representative. In the current legislation, the role of the safety representative and the committee is primarily advisory. Employers are required to consult with workers or their representatives on ‘issues concerning safety and health at work’ and on ways of attaining effective cooperation in achieving safe and healthy workplaces. Moreover, workers or their representatives have to be consulted on the introduction of new technologies, in order to consider the health and safety consequences of choosing a particular piece of equipment.
  • Compliance with health and safety at work is controlled by the Department of Labour Inspection operating under the Ministry of Labour. The Ministry formulated its policy in The Strategy of Cyprus for Safety and Health at Work 2013-2020. The basic aims are the safeguarding of appropriate and adequate levels of safety and health at work, the elimination or drastic reduction of work accidents and occupational diseases and the protection of the public against risks arising from work activities.
  • The pension system was reformed between 2008 to 2012. It led to measures that are meant to increase revenue through higher contributions. Other introduced measures were part of the EU’s Country Specific Recommendations (CSRs). The retirement age is set at 65 years in the private sector. Workers with accumulated rights can retire at 63; however, a penalty is imposed amounting to 0.5 % for every month taken before the age of 65. In the public sector, retirement age gradually increased from the age of 60 to 65. In the 2012 reform, the retirement age was linked to the life expectancy; a review takes place every 5 years. In January 2018, the parliament approved amendments to a bill dedicated to low-income pensioners that entitles these pensioners to apply for supplementary state pension.
  • Data on strikes and collective lockouts reveal that the overall total of strikes and lockouts has significantly decreased (to 16 in 2017), after a peak in 2012 (76 strike actions).