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01-03-2017 10:23 | Read 592 times

Government forced into U-turn over new working hours

THE government was forced into a U-turn the previous week after changes which would have seen civil servants made to work until 5pm under an efficiency drive were met with a furious backlash from trade unions.

Government forced into U-turn over new working hours

By ANIL IŞIK

Public sector workers had been due to adopt the new times on Thursday after ministers made an announcement 11 days earlier that they were scrapping 3.30pm finish times and longer working hours on Thursdays.

They had said that staff in government departments would instead be required to work from 8am to 5pm from Mondays to Thursdays and 8am to 4pm on Fridays, including an hour’s lunch break.

The move, however, was criticised by union leaders, who had been poised for a wave of industrial action on Thursday, claiming they had not been consulted on the changes.

However, they called off the planned disruption after the government announced on Wednesday it had suspended any adjustments in working hours until March 1.

The revelation followed a meeting between union leaders and the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Serdar Denktaş, Labour and Social Security Minister Hamza Ersan Saner and Olgun Amcaoğlu, under-secretary at the Prime Minister’s office.

A statement from the Prime Ministry said civil servants would keep to their current hours of 8am to 3.30pm on all days except Thursdays, which will remain as 8am to 6pm, with one-hour breaks on each day. The current set-up has been in place since 2010.

Metin Atan of the public sector Kamu-Sen union said the government and unions would use the next two weeks to negotiate a new deal.

“We will not put our signature on any documents without consulting and getting the approval of our members,” he said.

“Following the meeting we will take the points to our organs before coming up with any decision.”

He said working until 5pm was “not efficient” and that unions were proposing a 4pm or 4.30pm finish time.

“If need be, we will ballot our members to . . . secure their approval,” he noted.

Mr Atan added that he and other union leaders would also be raising objections to government plans to introduce a shortened three-month period of summer working hours.

“We will put forward our position in favour of having at least a four-month summer period,” he said.

“Summer hours covered five months of the year before 2010. We will see if we can reach a consensus.”

The Cyprus Turkish Chamber of Commerce had issued a written statement welcoming the February 5 government decision as an “important step” for public reform.

They also called for the “harmonisation” of working hours across the public and private sectors.

Meanwhile the National Education and Culture Ministry confirmed that lessons at state-run primary schools, which reopened on Thursday after a two-week winter break, would start and finishing at 8am and 12.40pm respectively for the rest of the academic year, with Monday afternoon lessons for older pupils held between 2pm and 4.10pm.

Classes at secondary schools will take place from 7.55am to 1.05pm daily, and also from 2pm to 4pm on Mondays.

The changes put an end to temporary later times that had been introduced in December after a fatal school minibus crash was blamed by protesters on a decision not to put the clocks back an hour, meaning children were going to school in the dark.

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