Cyprus paralysed by general strike against inflation
According to the country’s trade unions, 70,000 public sector and 40,000 private sector workers participated in the labour action, which shut down the government, public transport, hospitals, airports and ports, factories and offices between 12 noon and 3 p.m. on Thursday, reports Xinhua news agency.
Airport authorities said that 22 flights were affected and had to be rescheduled.
However, they said that air controllers continued to service international flights in the eastern Mediterranean air corridors, which are among the busiest in the world.
Thousands of demonstrators gathered outside the Ministry of Finance and then marched on to the Labour Ministry in the capital Nicosia demanding the full restoration of the Cost of Living Allowance system (CoLA) aimed at compensating workers for the loss of purchasing power as a result of inflation.
The strike, the first major nationwide industrial action involving all trade unions of the eastern Mediterranean island in more than a decade, was called after talks between workers and employers on the full restoration of the CoLA broke down.
The CoLA was suspended in 2013 under pressure by the Eurogroup as part of austerity measures in exchange for a ten-billion-euro bailout of the near bankrupt Cypriot economy.
It was partly restored in 2017 under an agreement providing that until the end of 2022 workers would receive an increase in their salaries equal to 50 per cent of the annual inflation rate.
Following the soaring of inflation rate in 2022, the trade unions demanded the full restoration of the CoLA to compensate for the loss of the purchasing power of workers’ salaries.
The country’s inflation rate in 2022 rose to 8.1 per cent year-on-year.
Employers’ associations suggested replacing the system with a new system of a yearly increase in salaries tied to productivity and growth.
The trade unions turned down the suggestion, arguing that they would only accept the full restoration of the CoLA within three years.
Labour Minister Kyriakos Koushos, who acted as a mediator, said the differences between the two sides were so large that he could not submit a conciliatory proposal.
Cyprus will hold presidential elections on February 5.
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