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27 May, 2024
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Cyprus welcomes foreign workers amidst hotel staffing crisis

How ministry plans to fill workforce gaps in tourism sector

Apostolis Tomaras

Apostolis Tomaras

The accord forged by the Ministry of Labour alongside employer and trade union representatives to tackle workforce shortages, especially prevalent during the summer months, seems poised to confront a longstanding challenge head-on. The downsizing of hotels and tourist enterprises has taken a toll on the quality of services rendered. Minister of Labour, Yiannis Panayiotou, in collaboration with social partners, has joined forces to fortify the labour market by integrating personnel from third countries.

Minister Panayiotou, elucidating to "K", emphasized the collective agreement that the partial opening of Cyprus to the international labour market "must not undercut the domestic market, labour standards, and benefits, with foreign workers simply serving as a source of cheap labour." According to Ministry of Labour data, recent issues stem from Cyprus's economic metrics surpassing its demographic parameters, resulting in shortages of both skilled and unskilled personnel in critical sectors of the economy. As conveyed by the Minister to "K", initial projections suggest that the demand for foreign personnel could range from four to six thousand in the upcoming period, with the tourism industry absorbing more than half of these new recruits.

The Ministry of Labour's protocols appear notably meticulous and rigorous regarding the approval processes for new work permits from third countries. In the latest deliberations with social partners, it was agreed to establish a framework to coordinate the international labour market. To this end, as disclosed by "K", the decision was taken to firstly form a Committee tasked with overseeing the employment of foreigners in the labour market and secondly, to delineate the Committee's terms of reference. Additionally, discussions during the meeting revolved around the living conditions of foreign workers. Pertaining to the pivotal issue of accommodation, employers advocated for an increase in the deduction rate from employees' wages for housing, from 10% to 25%. The Ministry of Labour acknowledged the necessity to enhance the living standards of foreign workers, underscoring an accord reached in this regard.

The responsibility for granting work permits lies with the Ministry of Labour, which, as per Mr. Panayiotou, has successfully streamlined and expedited the approval processes for new work permits. However, as highlighted by the Minister to "K", there remains room for improvement in the performance of relevant departments within the ministry. The urgency of issuing new permits is underscored as certain hotels have already commenced operations for the summer season. According to Mr. Panayiotou, the demand for additional staff will remain at the previous year's levels. However, the ministry remains open to flexibility in approving new permits should the need arise. As Mr. Panayiotou stressed, should the number of tourist accommodations fail to increase, the demand will hover around four thousand new work permits. However, if new establishments enter the tourism industry, the demand may exceed six thousand.

The Ministry of Labour's stance is clear: foreign workers should not be utilized at the expense of local personnel.

Approval of new work permits from abroad will be contingent on each interested enterprise, be it in tourism or other sectors, having exhausted all avenues for local recruitment. In line with this stance, the Ministry of Labour will closely monitor the rehiring of seasonal staff as a precondition for approving new permits. Both the Ministry of Labour and trade unions harbor concerns that businesses might exploit the opportunity to hire foreign personnel to the detriment of local workers. On this matter, the Minister of Labour leaves no room for leniency. "If any substitution of local staff with foreigners is detected, we will take measures to revoke new work permits and implement other actions that will be far from pleasant for those found in violation of the law."

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

Cyprus  |  tourism

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