By Peter Stevenson
Employees from the Electricity Authority (EAC) went on strike on Wednesday, while staff from the telecoms authority CyTA will strike on Thursday to protest against the privatisation of semi-government organisations (SGOs).
Members of the EAC’s trade unions stopped work at 8am and resumed at 11am and have warned that if the Cabinet approved the bill and sends it to parliament they could stage another strike for 24 hours.
“Without warning all of the EAC staff will strike for 24 hours and strike measures could escalate,” an EAC trade union statement said.
The government was granted a short extension to preparing and submitting bills regarding the privatisation of SGOs by the troika delegation on Monday.
In order to raise a budgeted €1.4 billion in revenue by 2018, the troika-mandated privatisation of SGOs is designed to auction off stakes in CyTA, the EAC, the Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA), and several others, to private investors.
“Our goal is to announce our opposition to any efforts to privatise the EAC so we can save our organisation, our national wealth and more importantly to resist by giving society, the public and future generations the great social asset that is electricity,” the trade unions said.
EAC employees are calling on the Cabinet to reject the ‘catastrophic’ bill and are completely opposed to any condition that could see the organisation change from being a public corporation.
Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency, head of the scientific personnel trade union SEPAIK Adonis Yiasemides said “privatisation would be catastrophic for our country and the organisation”.
In reference to the escalation of any strike measures on the trade unions behalf, he said: “It will definitely not be just a three-hour work stoppage” adding “our actions will be assertive and dynamic”.
CyTA employees are due to strike on Thursday between 9am and noon and will protest outside the presidential palace while the cabinet is meeting. Trade unions threatened that employees would go on a 24-hour strike on Friday if the proposal is approved by the cabinet.
General secretary of trade union APE-ATIK Alecos Tryfonides said that the privatisation bill did not contain any provisions to ensure labour and pension rights for SGO workers. He added that it only partially met trade unions’ requests for consultations but that it was still unclear what format consultations would take.
Tryfonides said that any privatisation should be voted on by parliament and not following a decree by the cabinet.
He added that efforts were being made to coordinate all trade unions representing SGO workers.