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Construction workers strike

Workers in the island’s ailing construction industry are taking part in a 48 hour strike in efforts to protect their jobs from cheap labour, while cement makers warn that a strike may deal a death blow to the industry.

Cyprus construction workers strikeWORKERS in the construction industry – one of the sectors most badly hit from recession – are due to strike today and tomorrow island-wide because employers are not taking any action to protect their jobs, unions SEK, PEO and DEOK have said.

“The strike will take place because for three years now, employees are being fired, are forced to join the queues at unemployment offices… and are being replaced with cheap labour,” the unions said in a joint announcement read out during a news conference yesterday.

The unions said there were some 10,000 workers hailing from the EU who “are unorganised” and are not part of collective agreements that tend to guarantee better benefits for employees.

However, PEO’s Michalis Papanicolaou said that in 2008, shortly before the construction and real estate sectors started shrinking after unsustainable growth,  “there may have been even more [EU workers]”.

Some 46,000 people are employed in the sector, roughly the same number of people as in 2008, the unions said yesterday.

Numbers have remained stable because projects have shifted to more labour-intensive ones rather than say roadworks that require fewer workers, Papanicolaou said.

And the unions conceded that in 2008, the labour ministry stopped issuing work permits to third-country nationals who were seeking employment in the construction sector, effectively guaranteeing more jobs for Cypriots and other EU workers.

But SEK’s Yiannakis Ioannou said the unions have been pushing for stricter control on the industry and have proposed the creation of a committee to regulate the sector in all districts, issuing licences to prospective employees.

“We do not have the right to impose barriers on EU workers, but we have the right to support policies formed on correct criteria,” Ioannou said.

Some 1,506 construction workers were registered as unemployed in December last year, from a total of 41,625 of registered jobless. The unions said yesterday that at least 6,000 construction workers have no job.

Unemployment is expected to reach 13.8 per cent this year and peak at 14.2 per cent in 2014 before dropping a year later. The construction industry continues shrinking with cement sales falling, given a lower demand for concrete. The property bubble burst in 2009, following four years that that saw prices triple.

The unions were due to meet with labour minister Sotiroulla Charalambous yesterday afternoon as the cement makers warned that a strike might be a death blow to the struggling industry.

Construction workers strike

Readers' comments

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  • andyp says:

    Perhaps the property industry should use this down time to to consider where they went wrong over the years and take steps to resolve long standing problems such as; title deeds, hidden mortgages, poor building standards, confidence in the legal profession, access to speedy dispute resolution and honesty to name but a few.

    Until the underlying problems are resolved this industry is stuffed, and rightly so.

  • Adrian says:

    I don’t think that I have actually seen a Cypriot actually “working” on a building site. This strike will stop them building more shops and houses and maybe the laws of supply and demand will take over and stabilize prices and move some dead stock.

  • Martyn says:

    A typical response of course from highly unionised, expensive Cypriots in a severe property construction downturn. If the 10,000 or so “unorganised” (and therefore lower cost) EU workers are here legitimately, then Tough to the Cypriots, many (most?) of whom who I’ll bet enjoyed the sublime ‘growth years’ and refuse yet tonrecognise there is a severe Euro-wide and sector recession, that The Cyprus economy is on the edge of total collapse and that they are simply ‘opening the doors’ for yet more legitimate lower-cost EU labour, happy to have jobs and enjoy the Cyprus sunshine!

  • Clive says:

    How lovely. Peace and quite for a few days. Who should be building when there are so many empty propeties about. They knew it was coming a long time ago.

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