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Unannounced Larnaca airport strike affects flights (Updated)

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An unannounced strike at Larnaca airport on Monday which lasted 90 minutes affected a total of six flights, airports operator Hermes said on Monday. The flights were delayed by 45 to 90 minutes.

At 10.25am, workers of the ground services provider Swissport and LGS stopped loading and unloading luggage over a pay dispute without warning.

The action caused problems at the check-in and baggage claim areas.

Private employee union SEK had warned about impending strikes after a collective agreement which should have been renewed in May was not signed by the employers and consequently an increment due in April was not paid.

After mediation in May, half of the pay increase was eventually given to the employees at Paphos and Larnaca airports, SEK organising secretary Giorgos Christou said.

“The work stoppage took place because the two companies, after mediation, agreed to pay half of it in May and the other half in June but they still haven’t paid the second half,” he said.

“We warned the employers that there will be strikes but until today we have not been given a positive reply.”

“At the end of last week we got a letter from the trade unions to which we replied that the process was under way and it is not reasonable to take measures by either side,” Antonis Vassiliades, Business Director of Swissport, told the Cyprus News Agency.

The Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV) strongly condemned the strike action.

“The strike is claiming wage demands by a group of well paid workers who have had no wage cuts from May 2015 until today,” OEV’s statement said. “The element that makes this strike so provocative is the fact that the minister of labour herself made heroic efforts at the highest level to find a consensual solution.”

OEV urged all unions not to repeat any industrial action at airports and to ensure their smooth operation.

“At a time when the Cyprus economy is trying to recover from disastrous previous years, strikes in airports in the middle of the tourist season are against all other workers and businesses that rely on tourism in order to limit their losses,” the federation added.

In a joint statement late on Monday, unions SEK, PEO, and DEOK, expressed surprise over what they deemed misleading assertions by OEV, and apologised to the public for any inconvenience caused.

“The strike was not aimed at seeking pay rises or other benefits, but in protest of unilateral violation of the terms of the collective agreement,” the unions said.

“[OEV’s statement] referred to a ‘group of well-paid workers’, in a bid to curry favour with the public, when most affected workers are low-paid. The statement also intentionally fails to acknowledge that the agreement lapsed two years ago, and was not renewed despite efforts made by unions and the Labour ministry, due to the negative stance by OEV’s members.”

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