Cyprus Mail

Unions fume as sell-off roadmap set

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades

By George Psyllides

FINANCE Minister Harris Georgiades said privatising state companies would be a long and difficult procedure, as unions were fuming Friday, a day after e government published a denationalisation roadmap, in line with the island’s €10 billion bailout agreement.

The roadmap would give Cyprus time and flexibility to maximise the benefits and limit risks, the minister told state radio CyBC.

“It will be a difficult procedure that will last between two and two-and-a-half years,” Georgiades said.

According to the terms of its bailout agreement, Cyprus must raise at least €1.4 billion from privatisations between 2016 and 2018.

Approval of the roadmap was set as a condition by international lenders for the release of the next tranche of financial aid worth around €185 million.

The roadmap was unanimously approved by the cabinet on Thursday.

The first privatisation should be expected two years later but there was no question of fully privatising any organisation, the government said.

Georgiades said the extent would be decided during the process.

He rubbished union accusations that there was no dialogue before the decision.

“In recent days I probably met worker representatives more often than I did the president. I do not accept that we did not have dialogue,” Georgiades said, assuring that talks would continue.

State telecoms CyTA PASE ATIK representative Alecos Tryfonides accused the government of lying.

He said the roadmap said nothing about alternative ways of raising the cash and nothing about the workers’ rights.

“The 1.4 billion is state debt, which will eventually be saddled on CyTA,” he said.

Electricity company EAC unions were also angered by the decision.

Andreas Panorkos of EPOPAI alleged that the DISY leader Averof Neophytou succeeded in getting his way.

He accused the government of hypocrisy and suggested that there had not been any dialogue.

Panorkos said privatisations meant more unemployed people and surrendering the organisation to foreign interests.

Any revenue will go abroad and nothing would be left for the people of Cyprus, Panorkos said.

“There should be referendum like in all democratic countries,” he added, and parliament should resign if it passes any legislation on privatisations.

Employers voiced their satisfaction but warned that no one would be interested if they did not have control over the organisation.

“The state is not a businessman,” OEV chief Michalis Pilikos said.

He added that workers’ reasonable rights should be maintained but not the “super privileges” they currently had.

Doing so would spell failure, he said.

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