By Peter Stevenson
PROTESTERS on Wednesday called on the government not to include the Electricity Authority (EAC) in plans to privatise semi-government organisations (SGO), sending a clear message that such a development could lead to more strikes.
Employees at EAC head offices, regional offices and at power stations stopped working between 9am and 10am as a way of expressing their opposition to the proposed privatisation of the organisation.
Head of trade union EPOPAI-SEK Andreas Panorkos said employees had been faced with a fait accompli and sent out the message that workers would respond accordingly.
Trade unions and workers called on the cabinet not to include the EAC in any privatisation plans, claiming that it would be ‘catastrophic’ for the EAC itself and for Cyprus.
“If any plan is approved which will see the privatisation of the EAC then there will be an escalation of strike measures,” Panorkos said.
In a letter sent to the general manager of the EAC, Stelios Stylianou, the unions EPOPAI, SIDIKEK-EAC, SEPAIK and SYVAIK, say that they had made every effort to convince the relevant bodies and in particular Finance Minister Harris Georgiades that the possible privatisation of the EAC “will have negative effects on the local economy, the public and society”.
Citing public interest, trade unions have urged Stylianou to make representations to the responsible minister, so that when the cabinet discusses the privatisation plan, he will recommend strongly the exception of the EAC.
According to the unions, during the strike power supply was not affected.
Later in the day, trade unionists met with ruling DISY leader Averof Neophytou.
The privatisation of SGOs is provided in the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between the Cyprus government and its international lenders in order to raise at least €1.4 billion by 2015, Neophytou said.
“This is the reality and it cannot be avoided. There is no other choice. We need to be honest towards the public and workers even if we disagree with the MoU,” he said.
DISY’s leader added that there was no other option. The only other option, he added, would be to exit the MoU which would lead to the bankruptcy of the state and the destabilisation of the banking sector.
“We all need to contribute to maintaining our positions, to keep a calm political climate, to continue our public dialogue so that the public, the economy, consumers and employees from both the public and private sectors can come out winners,” he added.