By George Psyllides
EVERYONE must understand the reality faced by ailing national carrier Cyprus Airways (CY), the government said on Friday, as unions renewed their threats to strike over the state’s refusal to pay redundant workers gratuitous compensation.
Communications Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos was clear.
“Not only the state cannot pay any gratuitous compensation, but this is not legally possible since it is not allowed by EU rules,” he said.
Unions accuse the government of going back on its pledge to cover the compensation — over and above what they will receive from the provident and redundancy funds — to redundant staff if the airline was unable to do so.
CY informed unions on Thursday that it could not afford to pay compensation.
Government spokesman Christos Stylianides said what had been agreed was clear “but equally clear was the reality faced by the company.”
“We hope that everyone understands this reality, even late in the day,” the spokesman said in a written statement.
Under the provisions of the latest rescue plan, CY will see 490 of its 1,040 staff made redundant and a reduction of its fleet by four aircraft to six.
The plan also provides for salary cuts across the board.
Sixty-eight employees have already left the company.
The decisions should have been made a long time ago but they had been postponed due to the political diffidence and indecisiveness of the previous administration, the spokesman said.
Unions however, appeared unfazed yesterday, threatening to go on an indefinite strike.
PEO said the unions had agreed for the payments to be spread over three years starting on January 1, 2014, when the first instalment was paid.
He said workers will be meeting on Monday morning to discuss the situation, not ruling out a decision for industrial action.
“Workers cannot leave the company without a pledge from the government that it will honour the agreement,” PEO official Yiannakis Souroulas said.
SEK representative Andreas Elia said that workers were disappointed and angry and accused the government of not even explaining the reasons why it was changing the agreement.
Elia said there was still time to resolve the matter before the workers’ meeting on Monday.