Cyprus has a relatively high level of trade union organisation – although it is probably now below 50%. There are two major trade union confederations, the PEO and the SEK, a smaller one, DEOK and a very much smaller one, POAS, as well as important autonomous unions representing public sector workers, bank employees and teachers.
There are around 170,000 trade unionists in Cyprus. This is 54% of all employees, but the union density may be lower than this, because some union members are retired or not employees. Figures from the ICTWSS database of union membership put union density lower at 43.7% in 2016.
Cypriot trade unionists are organised in two major union confederations as well as one smaller and one much smaller confederations, and a number of significant autonomous unions.
The two major confederations, the PEO and the SEK, are of broadly similar size. According to the figures supplied to the trade union registrar, the PEO is the larger with 61,529 members, while the SEK has 55,813 (2016 figures). The PEO traces its history back to 1941, although it changed its name in 1946, when the original organisation was declared illegal by the then British colonial regime. It maintains its position on the left of the political spectrum. The SEK was founded in 1943 and is closer to the parties of the right and centre. The smaller confederation DEOK has 7,123 members (2016) and has links to the socialist party. The smallest confederation, POAS, which brings together some independent unions, has 1,422 members (2015).
The two main confederations are organised broadly along industry lines, with federations for construction workers, hotel workers and government employees, for example. There are nine federations in the PEO and seven in the SEK. Of the two, the PEO has a stronger base among manual workers.
In addition, there are important unions outside the confederations, in particular PASYDY with 22,513 members (2016), which covers public servants, ETYK with 9,341 (2015) members, which organises bank staff, OELMEK with 5,150 (2016), which organises secondary teachers, and POED with 5,545 (2015), another teachers’ union.
Despite this variety of trade union representation, relations between the different trade union organisations are generally good. Despite some differences in policy, they have been able to achieve unity in their pay claims and other activities.
Union membership grew in the period 2000 to 2006, rising from 170,400 to 205,800, a 21% increase. However, overall employment grew even more rapidly over the same period, increasing by 36%. The result was that trade union density fell from 65% to 58%. Since then union membership, as reported by the Trade Union Registrar, has fallen further. For the four confederations and four independent unions listed above, total membership dropped from 206,000 in 2008 to 169,000 in 2015/16. Over the same period the number of employees increased from 306,000 to 311,000.
 Union membership figures from Trade Union Registrar, published in Working life in Cyprus 2017, by Pavlos Kalosinatos, INEK-PEO, Eurofound, 2018, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/cyprus (Accessed, 07.12.2018); figures for employees in employment from Cyprus Statistical Service – 2016 average – 311,205
 J. Visser, ICTWSS Database. version 6.0. Amsterdam: Amsterdam Institute for Advanced Labour Studies (AIAS), University of Amsterdam. June 2019
 All union membership figures in this section come from the Trade Union Registrar and relate to 2016 or 2015; Working life in Cyprus 2017, by Pavlos Kalosinatos, INEK-PEO, Eurofound, 2018, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/cyprus (Accessed, 07.12.2018)
 Trade union strategies to recruit new groups of workers- Cyprus, by Eva Soumeli, EIRO, 2010, http://www.eurofound.europa.eu/eiro/studies/tn0901028s/cy0901029q.htm
 Working life in Cyprus 2017, by Pavlos Kalosinatos, INEK-PEO, Eurofound, 2018, https://www.eurofound.europa.eu/country/cyprus (Accessed, 07.12.2018)
There is both industry and company-level bargaining in Cyprus. In total probably over half of all employees in Cyprus are covered by collective bargaining, although precise figures are not available.
The basic framework for negotiations is provided by the industrial relations code, which was agreed between representatives of employers, unions and government in 1977. This includes a procedure for the settlement of disputes and some key mutual commitments, such as acceptance of the right to organise and the right to bargain. The document is not legally binding but its terms have been effectively observed by both sides.
The code was agreed at national level and there have been other national agreements between the confederations and employers, such as the 1992 agreement on overall reductions in working time and the agreement on disputes in essential services signed in 2004.
Collective bargaining in Cyprus takes place at both industry level and company level. Key industry-level collective agreements in the privates sector cover hotels, metalworking industries, oil and construction.
However, although industry level bargaining continues to be important, many companies, both inside and outside the coverage of the industry level agreements, negotiate at company level. In some cases they set the pay and conditions of those not covered at industry level, in others they improve on the agreed industry rates. In November 2018, a report to the general meeting of the PEO union confederation noted that 237 agreements have been renewed in the course of the year. Both unions and employers consider that the balance between company and industry-level bargaining may be shifting, with company level bargaining becoming more important.
Since 2012, unions have had a legal right, under certain conditions, to compel individual employers to negotiate with them under the trade union recognition law (Law 55 (I)/2012). If an employer refuses to negotiate with the union, the union can ask the Trade Union Registrar to investigate, provided there are at least 30 employees in the bargaining unit – the area where the union is seeking to negotiate – and at least 25% of the workforce are already members of the union. In these circumstances the Trade Union Registrar will conduct a secret ballot, and, if a majority of the workforce vote in favour, the employer is compelled to negotiate with the union, in other words to recognise it. Recognition is also granted without a ballot, where the union can show that it already has more than 50% of the workforce in membership.
As well as company and industry-level bargaining in the private sector, there is widespread collective bargaining in the public and semi-public sector, where the coverage is close to 100%.
Overall the Department of Labour Relations estimates on its website that, when Cyprus joined the EU in 2004, 70% of all employees were covered by collective bargaining. It seems likely that the level of coverage has fallen since then, and but there are no official figures.
Suggestions that collective agreements should be given legal force, with the possibility of extending them to those not directly covered, were abandoned in 2013.
An important element in industrial relations in Cyprus is the system of mediation and voluntary arbitration. Based both on the voluntary industrial relations code and the service provided by the ministry of labour, this has been used to resolve deadlock in collective bargaining and in settling disputes.
In addition to collective bargaining, there are a large number of tripartite bodies, bringing together the unions, employers and the government. The most significant are the Labour Advisory Board and the National Employment Committee, but there are a range of others chaired by the labour minister, including the Productivity Council and the Pancyprian Council for Safety and Health, as well as other more technical bodies with less high-level political representation. The unions are represented through the union confederations, PEO, SEK and DEOK.
Who negotiates and when?
Industry level negotiations are between the appropriate industrial federations or, in some industries such as banking, the autonomous union and the relevant employers’ association.
At company level, the parties are the employer and the local trade union, generally through the full-time union official, with the involvement of the union representatives in the company.
Agreements normally last two years, sometimes extended to three, at both industry and company level.
The subject of the negotiations
Agreements cover pay, working time, holidays, travelling and other allowances, as well as procedural issues such as trade union facilities and dismissal procedures.
In the past, many collective agreements also included a cost of living allowance, which was uprated in line with inflation. However, this system was disrupted by the financial crisis and the bail out which followed. Cost of living allowance payments in the public sector were frozen from 2011 to the end of 2016 (alongside other measures to cut wages), and in the private sector they effectively ceased to apply in 2013.It was only in July 2017, once Cyprus was out of the bailout programme, that the government agreed that the cost of living allowance should be reinstated on a three-year temporary basis from the start of 2018 to the end of 2020. However, under the new arrangements, the increases in the allowance are less frequent, only once a year rather than every six months; they only compensate for half the increase in prices rather than the whole amount; and the payments can be suspended if the economy contracts.
There is no national minimum wage in Cyprus but there is a minimum wage for some specific groups of vulnerable workers, such as clerical workers, shop assistants, childcare workers and personal care workers. However, as part of the bailout package, these minimum rates remained frozen from 2012 to 2017.
 Press realease https://www.peo.org.cy/anakinosis/anak_gs_peo (Accessed 07.12.18)
 http://www.mlsi.gov.cy/mlsi/dlr/dlr.nsf/page43_gr/page43_gr?OpenDocument (Accessed 07.12.18)
 http://www.mlsi.gov.cy/mlsi/mlsi.nsf/mlsi26_gr/mlsi26_gr?OpenDocument (Accessed 07.12.18)
 Employers take issue with some Cola provisions, Cyprus Mail 26 Huly 2017 https://cyprus-mail.com/2017/07/26/employers-take-issue-cola-provisions/ (Accessed 07.12.2018)
Workplace representation in Cyprus is through the unions. Arrangements at workplace level depend on the particular circumstances that apply in each workplace.
Workplace representation in Cyprus is through the union structure. Apart from the area of health and safety, where a committee should be elected by all employees in workplaces where more than 10 are employed, there is no other body representing employees.
Workplace representation is also, in line with the rest of the Cyprus industrial relations system, not closely regulated by legislation. However, the industrial relations code makes specific reference to consultation, stating that the employer should “engage in joint consultation” in any case where the union or the employees believe that “a decision … may adversely affect them [the employees] or may have a repercussion on their relations with their employer”. In addition, legislation introduced in 2005 to implement the EU directive on information and consultation has strengthened the legal framework for workplace representation.
In practical terms, local union bodies deal with grievances brought to them by employees, with the employer’s proposals and with the day-to-day concerns of the workforce.
Figures from Eurofound’s 2013 European Company Survey show that 33% of establishments with at least 10 employees have some form of official employee representation – essentially through the union. This figure is close to the EU28 average of 32%. As elsewhere in Europe, larger organisations are much more likely to have such a structure than smaller ones. Among establishments with more than 250 employees, 61% have employee representation.
Numbers and structure
Workplace representation in Cyprus is through the trade union. The numbers involved depend on the union and the particular circumstances. They will generally work through joint meetings with management. The 2005 legislation (Law 78(I) 2005) implementing the EU directive on information and consultation has not changed this, as it requires that management and the existing employee representatives in the workplace (the unions) should negotiate the appropriate practical arrangements for informing and consulting employees. It does not set up any new structures.
The 2005 legislation applies to companies with 30 or more employees. The basis for calculating the number of employees is the average number of employees over two years, including part-time and temporary employees, although not agency staff. The number of part-time and temporary employees included is calculated on a full-time equivalent basis (Article 4).
Tasks and rights
Union workplace committees will typically deal with issues such as health and safety, work organisation, discipline and the implementation of the collective agreement. The industrial relations code says that in the specific area of large-scale redundancies the employer should notify the union as soon as possible and begin consultation.
The information and consultation rights of the local union committees have been strengthened by the 2005 legislation on information and consultation (Law 78(I) 2005).
This essentially reproduces the wording of the 2004 EU directive and it requires
- that information should be provided on the development and likely evolution of the business;
- that employee representatives should be informed and consulted on issues likely to affect employment levels, particularly where employment is threatened; and
- that they should also be informed and consulted on decisions which may lead to substantial changes in the organisation of work and employment contracts, including redundancies and the transfer of the business.
In those companies where collective bargaining is carried out at company level the workplace committee may be involved in this, although more often a full-time official will play the key role.
The committee also provides the link to the union structures, encouraging employees to join the union, getting support and advice from the full-time officials where necessary.
Election and term of office
Trade union representatives at the workplace are elected by a meeting of the members. Typically the term of office is one year.
Protection against dismissal
There are no specific legal protections against dismissal for workplace trade union representatives but discrimination on grounds of trade union activity is unlawful. In addition, the 2005 legislation on information and consultation states that employee representatives making use of these rights must not be adversely affected as a result of their activities.
Time off and other resources
Trade union representatives have general rights to enable them to carry out their duties and in larger workplaces the union will have access to a room and limited time off. In the banks and some public utilities the main trade union representative is completely released from normal duties.
There are no specific training rights for trade union representatives.
Representation at group level
The legislation does not provide for representation at group level.
 http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/2005_1_78/full.html (Accessed 07.12.2018)
Employees have no statutory right to be represented at board level in Cyprus, although for a period there were union representatives on the boards of two banks.
There is no legal right in Cyprus for employees to be represented at board level. In 2006 and 2007, union pressure led to the appointment of a representative of the bank employees’ union ETYK to the boards of two major banks. However, following the banking crisis, union representation at this level has ceased. (Indeed one of the banks no longer exists.)
Representatives at European level are in the first instance chosen by the union.
European Works Council
Cypriot members of the special negotiating body for an EWC are elected first from the existing employees’ union or, if no union exists, they are elected directly from the employees.
The procedure is the same for an EWC set up under the fallback procedure but the individuals must also be employees of the company.
Special negotiating body members from Cyprus are elected from existing trade union organisations, which represent employees, or by direct elections if there is no union in the company.
The situation is the same for members of the SE representative body (works council), as set up under the annex to the directive.
The mechanism for choosing employee representatives at board level is left to the SE representative body.
Further information on the national SE legislation can be found here.
Employees elect representatives for health and safety issues, and in workplaces with as few as five employees it is obligatory to elect someone. In workplaces with 10 or more employees these elected representatives sit on a safety committee. Their powers are consultative and advisory but they can call in the national inspectorate if needed.
Basic approach at workplace level
Employers are responsible for the health and safety of their employees. However, they should consult with elected employees’ representatives on health and safety issues. In workplaces with 10 or more employees this should be done through a safety committee.
Employee health and safety bodies
Employee representation in the area of health and safety is provided through the elected safety representative in workplaces with fewer than 10 employees, and through the elected employee members of the safety committee in workplaces with 10 employees or more.
Numbers and structure
The number of employee representatives in the area of health and safety increases with the number of employees at the workplace (see table).
Number of employees
Number of safety representatives/members of safety committee
5 to 9
10 to 19
20 to 49
For every 50 additional employees
1 additional representative
This means for example, that workplace with 250 employees would have seven employee representatives on the safety committee. There is no ceiling on the number of employee representatives, although Cyprus has very few large employers.
The other members of the safety committee are the employer, or his or her representative, the occupational physician (works doctor) – if there is one – and the safety officer – obligatory in companies employing 200 or more..
The safety committee is chaired by the employer or his or her representative.
Research by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work in 2014 found that 48% of workplaces in Cyprus had health and safety representatives and 35% had a health and safety committee. The figure for safety representatives is both below the EU-28 average of 58%, but the figure for safety committees sees Cyprus scoring better than the EU-28 average, which is 21%. (The figures are for workplaces with five or more employees.)
Tasks and rights
The role of the safety representative and the safety committee is primarily consultative and advisory. The committee itself cannot take action. For example, it cannot require work to be stopped if it considers the situation to be dangerous.
Under the main health and safety at work legislation, employers are required to consult with employees or their representatives on “issues concerning safety and health at work”, and they should also consult them on ways of achieving effective cooperation in achieving safe and healthy workplaces. There is a specific requirement to consult employees or their representatives on the introduction of new technologies, where the health and safety consequences of choosing a particular piece of equipment and the way that working conditions may need to be adjusted as a result need to be considered.
More specifically the role of the safety committee includes:
- discussing all issues related to health and safety at the workplace;
- monitoring the implementation of legislation relating to health and safety;
- identifying possible hazards in the workplace and investigating the reasons for these hazards; and
- receiving complaints relating to health and safety in the workplace and making recommendations to the employer in respect of these complaints.
The members of the safety committee should also advise employees of potential hazards. It should promote training in health and safety and encourage cooperation on health and safety issues. Employers should also consult members of the safety committee on health and safety training programmes.
Where employee members of the safety committee identify potential hazards at the workplace, they should bring them to the attention of the safety committee, who should then inform the employer, making proposals to remove the hazards. If the employer fails to act the safety representatives have the right to refer the issue to the national inspectorate.
Members of the safety committee have the right to accompany the inspector from national inspectorate in his or her inspections of the workplace, and to be given details of what the inspectorate plans to do as a result of the inspection. The safety committee also has the right to approach the national inspectorate for advice.
Frequency of meetings
The safety committee should meet at least once every three months and more often if the employee members of the committee consider there are urgent health and safety issues which need to be discussed.
Election and term of office
Safety representatives are elected by the whole workforce. The election should be organised by the employer in cooperation with the existing safety representatives. The term of office of safety representatives and employee representatives on safety committees is three years.
Resources, time off and training
Safety representatives on safety committees should be given sufficient time to undertake their duties without loss of pay and they should also be given the “necessary means” to carry them out.
The employer should pay for their training.
Protection against dismissal
Safety representatives and employee representatives on safety committees should not be disadvantaged in anyway because of their activities in the area of health and safety.
Other elements of workplace health and safety
All employers who have more than 200 employees must appoint a full-time safety officer to deal with health and safety issues. The duties of the safety officer include among other things, inspecting the workplace, carrying out risk assessment, organising and monitoring the occupational health management system, preparing risk assessment reports and training employees on health and safety issues. The safety officer is also present at meetings of the safety committee.
Safety officers must have the appropriate qualifications and experience, and their appointment must be individually approved by the Chief Inspector of the Department of Labour Inspection (see below).
The ministry responsible for health and safety at work is the Ministry of Labour Welfare and Social Insurance. The body responsible for monitoring compliance with health and safety laws and regulations is the Department of Labour Inspection, part of the same ministry.
Trade unions and employers are able to influence health and safety policy through their participation in the Pancyprian Safety and Health Council, which also includes government representatives.
Safety and Health at Work Laws 1996 to 2011
Οι περί Ασφάλειας και Υγεία στην Εργασία Νόμοι του 1996 μέχρι 2011
The Safety Committees at Work Regulations of 1997 (P.I. 134/97)
Οι περί Επιτροπών Ασφάλειας στην Εργασία Κανονισμοί του 1997 (Κ.Δ.Π. 134/1997)
The Management of Safety and Health Issues at Work Regulations of 2002 (P.I. 173/2002)
Οι περί Διαχείρισης Θεμάτων Ασφάλειας και Υγείας στην Εργασία Κανονισμοί του 2002 (Κ.Δ.Π. 173/2002)
 Second European Survey of Enterprises on New and Emerging Risks, European Agency for Safety and Health at Work, 2016
 For more information on the national context see OSH system at national level – Cyprus by Spyros Dontas, OSH Wiki https://oshwiki.eu/wiki/OSH_system_at_national_level_-_Cyprus
Employee financial participation in the form of employee (share) ownership or profit-sharing plays only a small role in Cyprus’ economy.
Public and political interest in this topic is relatively low.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. See Lowitzsch, J. et al. (2006): The PEPPER III Report: Country Report ‘Cyprus’; Hashi, I. et al. (2006): Employee Financial Participation in the New EU Members and Candidate Countries: An Overview of the Developments In the Legal and Economic Fields.
While employee share ownership and profit-sharing are not widespread in Cyprus the organisation of workers in cooperatives is significant.
According to the fifth European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS)1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2012): Fifth European Working Conditions Survey, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
There are no specific regulations in the Cypriot legal system regarding employee ownership or profit-sharing schemes. All Cypriot companies are governed by Company Law, which contains no special rules regarding profit-sharing and only a vague reference to employee share ownership. Each company is free to decide upon giving share options to employees as part of incentive schemes.
There are no tax advantages specifically targeting employee shares.
Cooperatives are regulated by the ‘Law on Cooperatives’, which was revised in 2002 to conform with EU provisions. It stipulates that cooperatives can be registered either as limited liability companies or as unlimited liability companies. In both cases, the law makes it clear, however, that cooperative members cannot be held personally liable for the obligations of cooperatives. Only in the case of liquidation of a cooperative with unlimited liability can members be held personally liable. It is not laid down in law that employees of a cooperative also have to be members of the cooperative, although in practice this is often the case. Membership of a cooperative also gives access rights to specific loan facilities.1 var obj = document.getElementById('note_hidden'); obj.value = obj.value + '1
1. See also Lowitsch, J. et al. (2006): The PEPPER III Report: Country Report ‘Cyprus’.
Employee financial participation plays no major role in union strategies at present.
- Hashi, I. et.al (2006): „Employee Financial Participation In The New EU Members and Candidate Countries: An Overview Of The Developments In Legal and Economic Fields“.
- Lowitzsch, J. et.al (2006): The PEPPER III Report: Promotion of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the New Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union, Rome/Berlin: Inter-University Centre at the Institute for Eastern European Studies.
- Lowitzsch, J., Hashi, I. & Woodward, R. (2009): The PEPPER IV Report: Benchmarking of Employee Participation in Profits and Enterprise Results in the Member and Candidate Countries of the European Union. Country Profile “Cyprus”.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2010): European Company Survey 2009. Overview. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2007): Financial participation of employees in the European Union: Much ado about nothing? Background Paper .
- European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions (2012): Fifth European Working Conditions Survey, Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.
- Poutsma, E.; Lighard, P. (2011): Compensation and Benefits, in: Cranet Survey on Comparative Human Resource Management – International Executive Report.
- European Commission (2012): Enterprise and Industry. SBA Fact Sheet 2012, Cyprus.
- EIROnline (2011): Cyprus. Industrial relations profile.
- PEO - PanCyprian Federation of Labour (En)
- SEK- Cyprus Workers' Confederation (En)
- DEOK - Democratic labour Federation of Cyprus
- PASYDY - Pancyprian Public Employees Trade Union (En)
- ETYK - Cyprus Union of Banking Sector Employees
- Union of Cyprus Journalists (En)
- PALPU Pancyprian Airline Pilots Union