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[February 16, 2014]
Port Authority hopes staff will return on Monday [Cyprus Mail]
(Cyprus Mail Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) THE hope that port employees will return to their posts on Monday so that business activity can resume was expressed on Saturday by Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA) head Alecos Michaelides. The ports remained closed for business on Friday due to a 24-hour strike by CPA employees protesting government plans to privatise the authority and port employee unions' decision to abstain from overtime employment after the "employers' side unilaterally amended the terms of employment" – the authority's latest budget included reductions in shift and overtime allowances. The strike and stopping overtime mean the Larnaca and Limassol ports' effective shutdown for business on Friday will continue throughout the weekend, affecting a total of nine ships – five fuel tankers and four cargo ships, some of which carry perishable goods for export. Limassol port manager Giorgos Ppouros said that "most ships heading to Cyprus during this time have changed direction, meaning imports will be delayed by at least one week." In an effort to bridge the gap, Michaelides said that the issue will be discussed with the finance ministry and employee unions. "Port employees' jobs are rather atypical, as employees are routinely called in for short stints of work outside their normal working hours," he said. CPA employees joined their fellow employees at semi-governmental organisations (SGOs) Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) and telecoms company CyTA on a 24-hour strike on Friday in protest at the provisions of a government bill governing privatisations to be voted on by the House on Monday. The bill calls for the creation of a privatisation inter-ministerial committee, headed by the finance minister and tasked with issuing guidelines and roadmaps, but does not provide for House involvement in the process, drawing fire from opposition parties and junior partner in the government coalition, DIKO. SGO employee unions protest the privatisation bill as they claim that, despite earlier promises and current assertions by the government, at no point were they engaged in the decision-making process to state their positions. "There has been no consultation by the government with the unions and there are no assurances that CPA employees' rights are secure," CPA employee union SYALK's leader Andreas Georgiou said. Unions also reject the government's claim that SGO employees' 'rights' – meaning job security and benefits – are secured, and argue that privatisation is not in the public interest as SGO profits are national income. Glafcos Constantinou, union SIDIKEK-PEO's secretary, said that "the CPA is a profit-making organisation that has a lot of potential to contribute." "If allowed, it can take advantage of the services it offers, become more profitable and contribute to economic growth in Cyprus," he added.
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