In recent years, particularly after the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, significant changes have affected the Cyprus labour market. Even more important are the changes that can be attributed to the ongoing economic crisis and prolonged recession.
The increase in the number of workers from EU Member States, third countries and Turkish Cypriots, being employed in the labour market, in conjunction with the increase in the phenomenon of undeclared work and the fear of unemployment, have created a significant rise in cases of unequal treatment and exploitation in the workplace.
In most cases, these employees have limited chances or opportunities to freely choose to join a trade union and thus have limited to non-existent opportunities of being represented by a trade union that will bargain on their behalf with regards to their terms and conditions of employment. Obviously, this has a negative impact on employees, but it also has an equally negative impact on the majority of law abiding enterprises who suffer from the consequences of unfair competition from a small number of businesses that take advantage of the gaps and inherent weaknesses present in the industrial relations system of Cyprus.
The Department of Labour Relations, realizing the need to modernize the industrial relations system, undertook the task of thoroughly reviewing the functioning of the industrial relations system taking into account the changes that have taken place to the labour market and the economy in general.
The main focus was to examine and assess common denominators that could be jointly agreed with social partners, ensuring to the fullest extent improvements to the rights and obligations of each party.
A common finding was that the system itself, which is based on the implementation of the provisions of the Industrial Relations Code, is still widely considered successful by all parties, giving no reason to change the voluntary arrangements used in the process of negotiations for the conclusion or renewal of collective agreements.
What became evident, though, was that there was a need to introduce new regulatory provisions relating to the stage prior to the application of the provisions of the Industrial Relations Code. A study of such cases found that even if employees managed to organize, in the case that the employer refused to recognize the trade union that represented them, then the employees were denied of their fundamental rights regarding the right to collectively bargain with a view to agree on a collective agreement. Furthermore, it became evident that in such cases, when the employer refuses to negotiate with union representatives with a view to concluding a collective agreement, this leads to violations of constitutional rights that are deprived from the affected employees.
While no law can compel an employer to conclude and sign a collective agreement, the employer has a clear obligation to negotiate in good faith.
Based on the above, new legislation was voted in to law with regards to Trade Union Recognition by the Employer for Purposes of Collective Bargaining.
Additionally, on the basis of legal obligations of the Republic of Cyprus deriving from the ratification of ILO Conventions, it also became clear that employers have an obligation to allow union representatives, after consultation with them, to enter the workplace so that, among others, they can inform employees about the benefits of joining a trade union. For this reason the law ratifying ILO Convention 135 on Worker Representatives, was amended to provide for these rights.