THE presidential palace has urged EAC (Electricity Authority of Cyprus) unions to call off their planned industrial action to allow for consultations free from the threat of a strike.
The authority’s four unions plan a two-hour strike on Thursday and a 24-hour strike a week later because they want the Transmission System Operator (TSO) that controls the power grid to remain part of EAC; the government wants it to become an independent entity, as it would be dealing with other power producers.
The government is making a big mistake to try to appease the unions with the offer of consultations. In fact President Anastasiades met members of the EAC board, acting as middlemen, last week when it was reported that he was willing to satisfy many of the union demands. Such an embarrassing show of government spinelessness does not augur well.
Anastasiades is so desperate to secure votes that he has been satisfying the demands of every interest group that walks through the doors of the presidential palace. And there have been scores of visit recently. Nobody will be surprised if he gave in to the unions.
A government that put the public interest above the election plans of the president would not have put up with this blatant blackmail by the unions, seeking to impose their energy policy on the executive. It would have had the self-respect to confront the unions, telling them they had no legal, political or constitutional authority to dictate the government’s energy policy.
It is not up to a group of ultra-privileged workers to protect a monopoly and decide how and when the energy market will be liberalised. This the exclusive, constitutional responsibility of the elected government which takes decisions for all the people, in contrast to EACs unions which represent the financial interests of a couple of thousand workers.
The EAC has been dragging its feet over the prospective independence of the TSO that would open the way for private power producers. This was meant to have happened this year, but it was put back to mid-2019. Now, the chairman of EAC, probably after consultations with Anastasiades, has proposed to the unions that the date be put back to 2021 as a compromise. This would constitute yet another humiliating surrender to the blackmailing unions. Unions know that blackmail works, much more so two months before elections.
Meanwhile businesses that are planning to invest in the energy market have been protesting about the way the government is handling the matter. They quite rightly object to the unions’ proposal that the TSO remain a part of EAC. What entrepreneur would “invest in a market whose supreme regulator is in the hands of his competitor’s unions?” these businesses quite rightly asked in an announcement issued yesterday. We all know the answer and so do EAC’s unions. And this is why they insist on the authority maintaining its monopolistic powers even after the market is opened to competition.