Cyprus Mail

Cabinet approves privatisation bill amid protests (update1)

By George Psyllides

The cabinet on Thursday approved a bill on privatisations with the four ministers belonging to coalition partners DIKO abstaining over a disagreement on the provisions.

In response, unions at state telecoms company CyTA, the electricity authority EAC, and the ports authority, announced 24-hour and 12-hour strikes for Friday.

Disruption is expected at the island’s two ports.

EAC workers said they would hold a 12-hour strike with skeleton staff.

However, a union leader said they could not guarantee uninterrupted power supply.

It is possible “that power cuts will occur,” Andreas Panorkos said.

CyTA’s basic services will not be affected but only a limited number of staff will be working to ensure that critical operations function normally to avoid putting lives  or the state’s security at risk.

DIKO disagreed with the bill because it does not give parliament a say in the sale of state companies.

That power is given to the cabinet.

The coalition partner’s disagreement has put the approval of the bill in doubt as main opposition AKEL and socialists EDEK have already said they will vote against it.

Its approval by parliament before the end of the month is necessary for Cyprus to receive the next tranche — €236 million — of an international bailout.

Deputy government spokesman Victoras Papadopoulos said it was necessary to maintain the political stability that would see the country out of the economic crisis.

Discussion of the bill at the presidential palace took place as workers of state telecoms company CyTA protested outside.

They held placards saying “We are paying for the crimes of others” and “The bill is catastrophic.”

The workers, who staged a three-hour strike on Thursday, asked that approval of the bill by the cabinet was delayed by a week to give time for consultations.

In a memo handed to the director of the president’s office, they asked for provisions in the bill securing their work and pension rights, and their participation in the dialogue.

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