KKTC’s Küçük warns protests may lead to social polarization

KKTC’s Küçük warns protests may lead to social polarization

Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister İrsen Küçük

March 08, 2011, Tuesday/ 17:07:00/ TANJU ÖZKAYA

Turkish Cypriot Prime Minister İrsen Küçük has stated that his government may consider reviewing and amending existing regulations on labor union rights, while expressing concerns that the continuation of protests against his government and the Turkish government by labor unions may lead to social polarization in the country.

The labor unions’ protests, supported by the opposition parties in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC), are against an austerity package that includes plans to cut entry level salaries by 40 percent and raise taxes.

Turkish Cypriot and Turkish officials have said Turkish Cyprus spends 84 percent of its budget on government payroll and pensions and warned it could go bankrupt by the end of the year if austerity measures aren’t implemented.

Küçük said in an interview with Today’s Zaman over the weekend that the KKTC government may consider revisions in the law on trade union rights in the coming months.

“Of course laws can be reviewed from time to time. You make a law but after implementation, you may need to amend it due to difficulties experienced during implementation,” Küçük said briefly, without elaborating.

The KKTC prime minister, meanwhile, warned that the continuation of protests may lead to social polarization as he drew attention to ongoing strikes at courthouses. “Court cases have been suspended and trials have effectively stopped,” Küçük said. “The strikes are having a negative impact on social life. The situation concerning the courts is worrying. The justice system is de facto not functioning,” he added.

Küçük also complained that labor unions haven’t been offering an alternative solution, even as they oppose the austerity package. He underscored, however, that his government is ready to negotiate with unions in order to end the strikes.

“Measures which should have been taken years ago were not taken until our government came to power. Nobody wanted to take any initiatives that would have left them in a difficult position. Implementing such measures can be painful. The protocol we signed with Ankara [on austerity] envisages a set of measures over a certain period of time, and the unions want this to be suspended. However, they do not have any proposals for solving the problem of budget deficit,” he said.

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