Cypriots to walk off job in rare strike over index-linked pay demands

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Thousands of workers were expected to walk off the job in Cyprus on Thursday in a standoff with employers over their demand for inflation-linked salary increases.

Twelve public and private sector unions called the strike which would be observed from 1000 GMT to 1300 GMT. The move was expected to shut down the public sector, disrupt schools and cause flight delays at the island’s airports.

Unionised workers are demanding full restoration of a wage indexation system, the Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA), which uses the Consumer Price Index (CPI) as a benchmark for wage adjustments.

General strikes in Cyprus – partly because of the existence of a CoLA system – are rare.

CPI was running at 8.4% between January and December 2022, marking the fastest pace of price increases on the island in four decades.

The CoLA system was frozen in 2013, when Cyprus was shaken by a financial crisis which required an international bailout. A transition agreement, in 2017, to offer employees 50% of the CoLA increment expired in December 2022.

“CoLA should be fully restored, and one of our demands is for it to be offered to all,” said Christos Tombazos of the PEO trade union.

An estimated 45%-50% of the workforce who are unionised, in the vast majority public sector workers, are covered by the system.

CoLA was first introduced in Cyprus in 1944 as a tool to buffer workers from runaway prices. Employer organisations have long campaigned for adjustments to the system.

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