By Stefanos Evripidou
THE ALLEGATION that flight safety has been undermined by the government is a case of sour grapes by the Civil Aviation Department (CAD) which has had its overtime pay reduced, said Communications and Works Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos.
In a letter to parliament, Mitsopoulos commented on allegations that safety standards at the Nicosia Flight Information Region (FIR) had fallen, saying the claims are probably the result of a reduction in overtime pay for CAD staff.
Phileleftheros yesterday reported the minister’s comments which were made in response to a letter sent by Greens MP Giorgos Perdikis on the claim that flight safety was at risk.
According to the paper, in previous state budgets, the average amount spent on overtime pay at the civil aviation department was around €6 million a year.
In his reply letter dated September 5, 2013, Mitsopoulos said: “This department, like every other state service, is obliged to reduce expenditure so that it falls within the approved budget. This does not mean that flight safety is also reduced. On the contrary, the safety standards which the department is obliged to implement based on its contractual obligations to the European Union and International Civil Aviation Organisation are given the highest priority.”
He added that efforts to improve the department’s efficiency and productivity and reduce costs, mainly overtime pay, are the likely cause of objections raised by affected employees.
Regarding staffing at the control tower, Mitsopoulos said next year, 15 air traffic controllers will complete their training, while within 2013, another group of 12 will begin their training.
This new addition to the labour force will contribute to reducing flight delays in the Nicosia FIR, he said.
Union representative for the CAD employees, Christos Solomou yesterday rejected the minister’s comments on overtime pay, insisting that the problem was that there was simply not enough staff for the department to meet all its obligations.
The minister was not immediately available for comment yesterday as he was travelling abroad.
Air traffic controllers (ATCs) held a number of strikes early last year in protest at pay cuts implemented across the board in the public sector.
More strikes were planned but had to be called off in the 11th hour after- in a rare display of unity- the previous government and parliament rushed to pass a bill making it a criminal offence for any ATC to refuse to work when required.