By Constantinos Psillides
Workers at the Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA) will strike on Thursday for 24 hours to protest against the proposed privatisation plan to be voted on at the plenum in the afternoon.
Port workers will be joining those from other semi-government organisations, mainly Electricity Authority (EAC) and telecommunications authority (CyTA), gathering in front of the House in the afternoon, while the vote takes place.
The ports strike is expected to be especially damaging, since actual port workers – not those working in offices and other related areas – have been on a work to rule since February 15. They were demanding a raise in overtime pay, which was cut by the government as part of its austerity drive
On Tuesday the workers said they would call off the work to rule after meeting with finance ministry officials where both sides agreed to further meetings next week.
A source inside the CPA, who wished to remain unnamed, told the Cyprus Mail that a motion was tabled to exempt the actual port workers from Thursday’s strike but it was rejected by union representatives.
While people working in the offices will return to their duties on Friday but the port workers will not service any ships over the weekend, except for cruise ships, ships whose cargo is perishable, and warships.
Glafcos Constantinou, head of port workers at PEO union told the press that the government planned to privatise the CPA in 27 months, so the workers had no other option but to strike since “they will lose their jobs in 27 months anyway”.
“Our goal isn’t to inconvenience people and create troubles for the economy,” said Constantinou, explaining that was up to the government to provide solutions.
Not all unions were of the same mind. SEK representative, Titos Timotheou, told reporters that his union objected to the new measures but they would respect the majority’s decision.
“We hope that even at the eleventh hour people will see things more clearly. You realise that if we fully abstained from work for more than three days, the ports would essentially close,” he said.
Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry general secretary Marios Tsiakkis and Cyprus Shipping Association general manager Lefteris Kouzapas estimated that shipping companies and import-export companies have suffered heavy losses already since the work to rule began. Both warned that the real problem was that shipping companies might decide on other trade routes, mainly through Israel ports.