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Trade Unions

Cyprus has a relatively high level of trade union organisation – although it is probably now below 50%. There are two major trade union confederations, the PEO and the SEK, a smaller one, DEOK and a very much smaller one, POAS, as well as important autonomous unions representing public sector workers, bank employees and teachers.

There are around 170,000 trade unionists in Cyprus. This is 54% of all employees, but the union density may be lower than this, because some union members are retired or not employees.[1] Figures from the ICTWSS database of union membership put union density lower at 43.7% in 2016.[2] 

 

Cypriot trade unionists are organised in two major union confederations as well as one smaller and one much smaller confederations, 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 61,529 members, while the SEK has 55,813 (2016 figures).[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 smaller confederation DEOK has 7,123 members (2016) and has links to the socialist party. The smallest confederation, POAS, which brings together some independent unions, has 1,422 members (2015).

 

The two main confederations are organised broadly along industry lines, with federations for construction workers, hotel workers and government employees, for example. There are nine 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 22,513 members (2016), which covers public servants, ETYK with 9,341 (2015) members, which organises bank staff, OELMEK with 5,150 (2016), which organises secondary teachers, and POED with 5,545 (2015), 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 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 was that trade union density fell from 65% to 58%.[4] Since then union membership, as reported by the Trade Union Registrar, has fallen further. For the four confederations and four independent unions listed above, total membership dropped from 206,000 in 2008 to 169,000 in 2015/16.[5] Over the same period the number of employees increased from 306,000 to 311,000.

[1] Union membership figures from Trade Union Registrar, published in Working life in Cyprus 2017, by Pavlos Kalosinatos, INEK-PEO, Eurofound, 2018, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/cyprus (Accessed, 07.12.2018); figures for employees in employment from Cyprus Statistical Service – 2016 average – 311,205

[2] J. Visser, ICTWSS Database. version 6.0. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), University of Amsterdam. June 2019

[3] All union membership figures in this section come from the Trade Union Registrar and relate to 2016 or 2015; Working life in Cyprus 2017, by Pavlos Kalosinatos, INEK-PEO, Eurofound, 2018, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/cyprus (Accessed, 07.12.2018)

[4] Trade union strategies to recruit new groups of workers- Cyprus, by Eva Soumeli, EIRO, 2010, http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/studies/tn0901028s/cy0901029q.htm

[5]  Working life in Cyprus 2017, by Pavlos Kalosinatos, INEK-PEO, Eurofound, 2018, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/cyprus (Accessed, 07.12.2018)

L. Fulton (2020) National Industrial Relations, an update. Labour Research Department and ETUI (online publication). Online publication available at http://www.worker-participation.eu/National-Industrial-Relations.