Hundreds of workers gathered outside the Finance Ministry today calling for the full reinstatement of COLA (Cost of Living Allowance). The demonstrators then proceeded to the Ministry of Labour, Welfare, and Social Insurance, via Grigori Afxentiou Avenue, Kostis Palamas Street, and Lord Byronos Avenue, where they held a rally and delivered a petition to Kyriakos Kousios. The unions demanded an agreement with the employers on COLA and the termination of the 2017 transitional agreement, which provided for the payment of 50% of COLA. During the strike, citizens shouted and held placards and banners with slogans such as "COLA for all" and "Hands off COLA". There were numerous police officers on the scene.
Kousios greeted with 'boos' by demonstrators
Boos greeted Labour Minister Kyriakos Kousios, who was outside the ministry receiving the union's petition. "Give COLA to the people or resign and good riddance," chanted one protestor outside the Labour Ministry. According to the trade unions, Kousios reiterated his previously stated position that he has no room to continue his efforts to find a solution.
Trade unions sent a clear message
The trade union leaders' speeches were delivered in a charged atmosphere. Andreas Matsas, General Secretary of the SEK, was emotional at the start of his speech, and there were also boos directed at the employers' organizations and the government. During the speeches, slogans such as "Petridis you are here, come down to see you" were heard.
Images from Nicosia
Images from Limassol
Christodoulides' stance on the strike
"The independent candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Nikos Christodoulides, emphasizes once again the need to seek, through dialogue, a commonly accepted regulation on the issue of the COLA, in a way that restores part of employees' purchasing power without jeopardizing business viability," Christodoulides' staff said.
The official statement
"The independent candidate for the Presidency of the Republic, Mr. Nikos Christodoulides, stresses once again the need to seek, through dialogue, a commonly accepted regulation on the issue of the COLA, in such a way that part of the purchasing power of employees is restored without compromising the viability of businesses.
The resolution of this outstanding issue, which is disrupting industrial harmony, will be one of Nicos Christodoulides' top priorities if he is elected president. The restoration and performance of the COLA should be the starting point, with a time horizon that takes the economy's course into account.
Nikos Christodoulides expresses his confidence that, with the responsible attitude they have demonstrated for decades, the social partners will use every opportunity for dialogue to reach a mutually acceptable settlement, with respect for workers' rights and commitment to the need to find workable solutions."
AKEL's stance on the strike
"AKEL stands by the trade union movement in defense of a conquest won decades ago through hard workers' struggles and prevented from being abolished despite the Troika's and big business's blackmail," the party said in a statement.
The official statement
AKEL, in collaboration with the workers of Cyprus
Today's strike by all of the country's trade unions is a just and necessary reaction by the country's workers against the government and the employers' associations that have broken the COLA agreements.
At a time when precision is eroding wages and pensions, the government and employers are failing to recognize the terrible pressures and difficulties that the working, low, and middle-income groups are facing. AKEL demands that the COLA be fully restored and expanded to cover all workers in the country. AKEL stands with the trade union movement to defend a conquest won decades ago through hard workers' struggles and kept from being abolished despite the Troika and big business blackmail.
The upcoming presidential elections, according to AKEL, will also determine the future of COLA. Averof's aversion to COLA and Christodoulides' chewed-up words lend a helping hand to employers who want it repealed. After all, the Coalition has never recognized the existence of the COLA, which it views as a tax on business profits. Only Andreas Mavroyiannis has stated unequivocally that the COLA should be reinstated and extended to all workers who are not currently covered.
EDEK's stance on the strike
COLA is particularly important and highly supportive of low-wage workers. We ought to help secure and extend it, says a statement from the EDEK.
The official statement
The COLA is especially important and helpful to low-wage earners. We should work to secure and expand it.
The strike today is justified because the 2017 agreement should and must be followed.
[This article was translated from its Greek original]