Intervention of Pambis Kyritsis, General Secretary of PEO trade union
HEARING ON THE “SOCIO-ECONOMIC SITUATION IN THE EU AND THE MEMORANDA”
ORGANISED BY AKEL, PCP, IU SPAIN IN COO
PERATION WITH GUE/NGL
12th November 2014, European Parliament, Brussels
Brothers and Sisters,
The capitalist crisis, the dramatic growth in inequalities and the intensification of social contradictions are the main characteristic of the current international socio-economic reality.
Cyprus is one of the Memoranda victims.
Through the Memorandum, a neo-liberal restructuring of the Cyprus economy is being viciously imposed and hence on society too. The main characteristic of this restructure policy is the imposition of cuts in wages, the dismantling of the welfare state, the privatisation of public wealth and property and the destruction of family SME’s to the benefit of big capital.
According to the figures released by the Statistics Bureau and EUROSTAT itself, Cyprus’ GDP will shrink accumulatively by 13% up to next year in comparison to 2012 and went back by a decade.
Unemployment has exceeded 16%, while its qualative characteristics are perhaps the worst throughout the whole of the European Union. Approximately 1 in 2 young people are unemployed and 70% of the unemployed have been without a job for over 6 months.
Wages have registered the biggest decline throughout the EU. The purchasing power of the average wage has gone back to the levels recorded 18 years ago, that is to say, to the levels of 1995.
However, the profits of those big companies who prevail and dominate in conditions of crisis will have increased by 1.4 billion from 2011 up to 2015. This illustrates in practice that the fall in wages doesn’t aim at boosting competitiveness, but in reality is strengthening profitability and the accumulation of capital.
The welfare state has shrunk dramatically. Social benefits have been cut by 127 million Euros in 2014. Pensioners have lost 30% of their income.
The Cyprus government instead of resisting this path in order to protect the society’s cohesion in many cases is even more punishing than the Troika itself. With its “enthusiastic contribution”, Cyprus is falling into a vicious circle of underdevelopment and poverty.
Under these conditions, the Cypriot trade union movement is indeed on the defence.
The employers are using mass unemployment and people’s insecurity to intensify exploitation and undermine collective agreements.
To a large extent we have managed to protect collective agreements, even though in several sectors that have suffered greatly, such as the construction sector, we have consciously chosen to sign special agreements for a set period with some concessions.
However, we don’t have any illusions. The procedure of deregulation of labour relations is being fed by the objective conditions and is continuously escalating. Employer’s immunity and the exploitation of cheap labour without any rights are increasing relentlessly, especially in those areas where there is no trade union organisation and tradition.
This is the reason why in assessing the given conditions as they are evolving we consider it necessary to intensify our assertions for the legislative safeguarding of work. Our goal is the implementation of collective agreements so that they become legally binding for employers.
Our actions are focused naturally on organising the reaction and resistance of the people against the neo-liberal recipes. In cooperation with 20 other trade union and social organisations we have established a striking platform which has organised mass mobilisations of unprecedented numbers, forging a bulwark of resistance to anti-worker policies. Without doubt this bulwark would have been even more powerful had the whole of the trade union movement of the country participated in this platform.
In our view the policy that has always been cultivated by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) in Europe has to a great extent distanced itself from the real issues set by the brutal neoliberal restructuring, given that on many occasions it operated and functioned as a force legitimizing these very policies and glorifying them among the working class.
PEO remains an active member of the World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU) and is working to rally again around it the progressive and class-orientated trade unions.
Solidarity on a European level, transferring the struggle also to decision-making centres and the all-European coordination of the progressive class-orientated forces is necessary.
In concluding my brief intervention, permit me to point out something.
Trade unions today need the Left as never before. However, the Left too needs the trade union movement. The respect of its organisational autonomy is one thing and the cultivation of views in support of trade unions without a clear class and ideological orientation is something else. The real autonomy of trade unions is threatened mainly by the influences from and dependencies on capital and the ruling class.
Despite the difficulties and problems, we are not pessimistic. We believe in the force of the working people.
Allow me to reassure you all that PEO will be consistent and steadfast on this path until the end.
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