The Pre Trade Union period

The Pre Trade Union Period

The formation and growth of the Cypriot trade union movement was significantly delayed as the conditions in the first few decades of the British colonial period did not allow a significant working class to emerge. In both the pre- Trade Union period of 1900 to 1920, as well as in the later years of 1930 to 1940, the absence of Social Insurance legislation, combined with the high level of unemployment caused the lack of British interest in the industrial development of Cyprus, were leading the people of the island to a state of misery and humiliation.

The first organising steps

The earliest attempts to form Unions in Cyprus began in 1915, but serious efforts for the organising of representational labour syndicates only started in the 1920s through the initiative and hard work of the first communists in the island. These efforts in turn led to the formation of workers’ unions, clubs, and unified labour organisations in Limassol and Nicosia.

  • Pictures of beggars.
  • Picture of a group of miners transporting ore in wagons pulled by donkeys. As a characteristic of the times, it worth noting that the compensation paid by an employer for the death of a donkey was higher than that paid for the death of a miner.
  • Photographs from the Limassol port, where workers (‘hamalides’) would carry the heavy loads on their backs.
  • Members of the Builders’ Union in 1922.
  • Excerpt from “Νέος Άνθρωπος” (New Human) in 1925 describing the formation of workers’ clubs and unions.
  • Excerpt from the narration of veteran trade unionist Simos Tsiarris, on the builders’ strike of 1933, that grew out of the demand for an 8-hour working day and a raise on daily wages.
  • Document on the 1929 Amiantos Mine strike by 6,000 workers, that began over disputes regarding the bread they could bring from their home.
  • Excerpt from the narration by veteran trade unionist Kyriakos Ragouzeos, reffering to the councils meetings, taking place secretely in caves of the persecution by the colonial police.