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Our View: CyBC could handle budget cuts, it just lacks the will

AFTER last week’s resignation by the CyBC chairman Makis Symeou, another four board members followed his example on Tuesday, informing the Interior Minister Socratis Hasikos that they were stepping down. All five have links to AKEL and it is believed they submitted their resignations on the instructions of the party which wanted to make a big issue out of the cuts to the corporation’s 2014 budget by the government.

AKEL’s board members would have been replaced at the end of the year anyway, as a new law would give the president the right to make new appointments to all SGO boards. By resigning they are helping their party’s campaign against the government’s spending cuts, which they claim will lead to job losses at the state broadcaster. It is just another cheap populist gimmick by AKEL, the overspending of which in the previous five years led the state to bankruptcy.

The government has cut the budget, which was €33.9 million in 2013, by €5.5m. The corporation generated about €7 million from advertising and other sources, with the taxpayer paying the remaining 26m. It currently employs 600 people, the majority of whom are on contracts and receive significantly lower wages than the permanent staff that includes, thanks to the collective agreements, some of the highest paid secretaries and telephonists in the country.

The annual average cost of a permanent employee in 2011 was €80,000 according to the auditor-general. For contract workers the average cost was €32,000. Like all SGOs the CyBC has been plundered by its unions over the years, with the tacit approval of the political appointees on its boards. But rather than reduce its costs so it could live within its means, the corporation would simply not make contributions to the staff pension fund which now boasts a deficit of €93 million.

Who will cover this deficit created by the irresponsibility and recklessness of successive boards that were unwilling to say ‘no’ to the greed of the unions? And why should the taxpayer carry on funding wages way above market rates?

One of the reasons Symeou gave for resigning was that the budget cuts would force the corporation to make redundant 150 contract workers and this was not the time to put people on the dole. The truth is that nobody needs to be made redundant if across the board pay cuts were made, the biggest among the overpaid permanent staff. This is the sensible way of dealing with the cut in its budget which is an imperative in these difficult times. Why should the overpaid, underworked aristocrats of the CyBC not feel the effects of the recession, which all other media workers have been feeling for years?

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