Tough negotiating, reinforced by a strong mobilization of union members backed up by strike action, has won a new collective agreement for the IUF-affiliated Cyprus Hotel Employees Federation OEXEV-SEK. Negotiations for a renewal of the sector-wide agreement had been deadlocked since mid-December last year, when employer intransigence led the union to request the intervention of the Labour Minister in the bargaining process.
The minister's proposal was accepted by the union and by the employer association representing three-, four- and five-star hotels but not by the second employers group PASYXE, representing a larger number of employers in hotels of all categories. Employer resistance stiffened as a result of the sharp drop in occupancy resulting from the Iraq war, prompting the union to announce strike measures beginning June 24. The strike call generated further mediation by the Labour Minister, whose revised proposal was approved and signed by the union and the smaller of the employers groups but not by PASYXE. When the latter rejected the new agreement, the union held a successful strike on July 3 in the association's five-, four- and certain 3-star hotels. PASYXE then called for a lockout.
When the employer association's own members refused to comply with the lockout call, the association was forced to retreat and accept new contract proposals by the Minister, though it subsequently failed to sign the agreement, instead declaring individual members “free” to sign or not.
In response, the union mobilized the membership at each hotel to inform all employers that refusal to sign would be met with new strike action. As employers began to sign on to the agreement, PASYXE was again forced to retreat and quickly signed the agreement in the presence of the Labour Minister.
The new agreement, retroactive to April 1, 2002 and running for one year, meets virtually all of the union's demands, including a general wage increase, an increase in the starting salary, and improvements in employer contributions to the medical and pension funds.