THE VIOLENT and thuggish behaviour outside the House of Representatives by Electricity Authority workers was shocking. Behaving like football hooligans on the rampage, demonstrators hurled firecrackers and stones at police – some fought with officers and entered the legislature – shouted abuse at deputies and the finance minister, prevented the Attorney-General from entering and, to cap it all, cut the power supply to the building.
These despicable terror tactics will take a different form today, as the striking EAC workers will subject the whole country to power cuts because the reduced output of the power stations will not be adequate to cover the country’s needs. Everyone will have to suffer, at significant cost to the economy, because the overpaid and under-worked, highly privileged employees of the EAC do not want the Authority privatised. And the only reason they are opposed to privatisation is because they fear they would lose their super-privileges.
But what do the workers propose we do? The passing of the privatisation bill is a condition for the release of the next instalment of financial assistance by our international lenders, without which the state would be unable to meet its financial obligations. Should the state default on its payments and declare bankruptcy so that it satisfies the selfish bullies and the EAC can carry on operating as a workers’ co-operative? It is not even as if the Authority is a financially robust concern – it is now a loss-making national liability and not a source of public wealth as unions and political parties have been claiming.
Unfortunately, most of the political parties, with their strident opposition to privatisation, have been encouraging the hooligan behaviour of the SGO unions. There was grudging condemnation of yesterday’s violence by some, but until early, yesterday evening Akel had avoided taking a stand, against the episodes. Even the parties which condemned the vandalism, made sure to tell us they respected the rights of unions to protest as if this was the issue. There was really no need to say this because our society has always respected the right of unions not only to protest, but also the dubious right to resort to bullying, blackmail and violence.
At least this time nobody accused the police of using ‘excessive’ force against the hooligans, as is the normal practice. On the contrary, Disy chief Averof Neophytou accused the police of not responding adequately to the thuggish behaviour in order to maintain law and order, a view also expressed by the government spokesman. The spokesman also said that President Anastasiades had asked for the enforcement of the letter of the law regarding strikes at essential services, which would be violated by the EAC strike.
The government must take a hard line because if it does not, the bullying unions will exploit any show of weakness and step up their terror tactics.