On March 9th, 8 out of the 13 workers in the call centre of the insurance company Anytime – Interamerican went on strike to protest the illegal and vindictive dismissal of the workers’ representative, in the midst of negotiations between the workers and the company for the signing of a collective agreement. The lay-off came just after the workers registered with the Pancypriot Union of Employees in the Services of the Pancypriot Labor Federation (PASEY -PEO).
It is the first time that a company is firing workers that are on strike in Cyprus.
The justification provided for the layoff was that she was acting in a “foreign manner” to the company’s “culture” by urging the rest of the workers to participate to the pancyprian 3-hour stoppage, called by all the trade unions in the beginning of the year in demand of CoLA (Cost of Living Adjustment benefit).
After the dismissal was announced, the majority of the workers in the call centre went on a solidarity strike, demanding the reinstatement of their representative.
The company refused to negotiate with the trade union that represents the strikers. Even though they participated in two meetings in the Department of Labor Relations of the Ministry of Labor, they were simply repeating a statement that they will not take back the lay off and that they consider the strike illegal, even though clearly it was not. On March 27, they sent a personal letter to the strikers, ignoring the trade union, threatening them with dismissal if they did not return to work. This was repeated on April 7, when the management sent another personal letter to the strikers saying that on Monday, April 10, they will be fired if they did not return to work. On Monday night the strikers received the letter of their dismissal.
The company is sacrificing their oldest and best workers, in order to not take back the lay-off, not to recognise the trade union and not to sign a collective agreement with the union!
This is the first time that a company is firing workers that are on strike. It is a sign that the bosses are becoming more and more aggressive and are also willing to pay a fine (which most probably will be nothing compared to the profits they make) for not following the law, rather than respect labor legislation, agreements and workers’ rights!
The publicity and support that the strike received led even the Minister of Labor himself, a newly elected neoliberal right wing politician, to state that the dismissal took place outside the framework of the Industrial Relations Code and to assign the director of the Department of Labor Relations himself to personally deal with the dispute! Last week, through meetings with the head of the company, the company supposedly agreed not to go forward with dismissals, but they did it either way.
The strike is now over. Even though the strikers were fired, their struggle didn’t go in vain. It was one of the longest strikes of the last few years, in a sector that the workers find it difficult to organise, let alone to go on a solidarity strike! Their determined struggle represents a ray of hope that resistance against neoliberal attacks that workers are facing is possible. New Internationalist Left (NEDA) was present in this struggle, expressing solidarity to the the fighting workers. This strike was another step towards the goal of rebuilding the workers movement and the Left in Cyprus, which needs to fight to take back workers’ rights that were stolen from them during previous decades. We will continue in that direction.
This article was initially published in Greek, read it here