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Trade Unions

Cyprus has a relatively high level of trade union organisation – between 55% to 58% according to government statistics. There are two major trade union confederations, the PEO and the SEK, and a smaller one DEOK, as well as important autonomous unions representing public sector workers, bank employees and teachers.

There are just over 200,000 trade unionists in Cyprus. This is between 55% and 58% of all employees, according to figures from the Department of Labour Relations, published on their website.1 Figures from the ICTWSS database of union membership put union density lower at 49.0% in 2011.2

Cypriot trade unionists are organised in two major union confederations as well as one much smaller one and a number of significant autonomous unions.

The two major confederations, the PEO and the SEK, are of broadly similar size. According to the figures supplied to the trade union registrar, the PEO is the larger with 83,132 members, while the SEK has 70,322. 3 The PEO traces its history back to 1941, although it changed its name in 1946, when the original organisation was declared illegal by the then British colonial regime. It maintains its position on the left of the political spectrum. The SEK was founded in 1943 and is closer to the parties of the right and centre. The third confederation DEOK has 9,407 members and has links to the socialist party.

The two main confederations are organised broadly along industry lines, with federations for construction workers, hotel workers and government employees, for example. There are eight federations in the PEO and seven in the SEK. Of the two, the PEO has a stronger base among manual workers.

In addition, there are important unions outside the confederations in particular PASYDY with 19,962 members, which covers public servants, ETYK, with 10,671 members, which organises bank staff, OELMEK with 5,643, which organises secondary teachers, and POED with 5,174, another teachers’ union.

Despite this variety of trade union representation, relations between the different trade union organisations are generally good. Despite some differences in policy, they have been able to achieve unity in their pay claims and other activities.

Union membership has grown in recent years from 170,400 in 2000 to 205,800 in 2006, a 21% increase. However, overall employment has grown even more rapidly over the same period, increasing by 36%. The result is that trade union density has fallen from 65% to

Union membership grew in the period 2000 to 2006, rising from 170,400 to 205,800, a 21% increase. However, overall employment grew even more rapidly over the same period, increasing by 36%. The result is that trade union density fell from 65% to 58%. 5 More recently employment has fallen, partly as a result of the country’s severe banking crisis in 2012. It dropped by 11% between the first quarter of 2011 and the first quarter of 2014, and the unions report that this fall has also had an impact on the level of union membership. 6


L. Fulton (2015) Worker representation in Europe. Labour Research Department and ETUI. Produced with the assistance of the SEEurope Network, online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.