Cyprus should soon be in a position to adopt a national minimum wage, Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou said on Wednesday.
Cyprus is one of only six EU member states without a national minimum wage. However, some professions including clerks, nursing assistants, kindergarten assistants, school aides, security guards and carers) are protected by a minimum wage which is set by Labour Ministry decree.
Emilianidou was speaking to journalists after a meeting of the Council of Ministers. She was responding to questions on marathon negotiations between trade unions and hoteliers on the renewal of the collective agreement which were brokered by her ministry.
After all night negotiations the two sides were able to reach an in principle agreement.
“It is important that after very difficult negotiations we have an in principle agreement which must be approved by the general assemblies of the employers and of the employees after I submitted a mediation proposal,” she told reporters.
“It is a balanced proposal which on the one hand safeguards the rights of the employees and on the other protects the competitiveness of the tourism industry,” she said.
Emilianidou said she believed the in principle agreement benefited both sides and thanked all those involved for the good will they had shown.
Under her proposal, a decree will be issued for some professional categories of hotel employees setting a minimum wage and thereby ensuring that they have a respectable salary.
Employees had asked for the re-introduction of some benefits they had agreed to have frozen in 2013 at the height of the financial crisis, and these have partly been reactivated, she added.
The agreement covers four years so as to ensure industrial peace for a longer period, she added.
Asked about a national minimum wage, the minister said that two meetings have been held with the International Labour Office while the European Commission will help the government with the necessary studies before the amount is set.
These studies are expected before the end of the year and as soon as there are conditions of full employment — that is an unemployment rate of under 5%. The unemployment rate is currently 6.5%, down from 17% in 2013.
“We believe that we will be able to have a national minimum wage soon,” she concluded.