By Constantinos Psillides
DRIVERS and staff at local bus companies are gearing up for a fresh round of strikes as they fear they will be subjected to the same pay cuts as in the public sector.
The Attorney General’s office concluded that since bus companies are subsidised by the state by more than 50, the workers should be considered as public sector employees and thus should be subjected to the same wage cuts.
In an effort to diffuse the situation, the House Labour Committee told the Communications and Works ministry officials and bus company representatives to figure out a solution within two weeks or they would have to step in and amend the legislation.
Iordanis Iordanous, head of the Nicosia district transport organisation (OSEL) told the Cyprus Mail that he hopes a solution can be reached between the two parties or they would have no option but to enforce the salary cuts.
“We were told during the Labour Committee session that the issue would be resolved. We were asked to meet again in 15 days. We hope that it can be resolved and bus company workers will be excluded from the public sector pay cuts. If they are not, the ministry leaves us with no other choice but to proceed with the pay cuts as instructed,” he said.
Ministry officials told Labour committee members that there is room for wage reduction when it comes to some people working for the bus companies. According to the figures produced by the officials, 75 people receive a wage of under €1,000, 40 earn €1,000-1,500, 130 receive €1,500-2,000, 90 get €2,000-2,500, 25 receive €2,500-€3,000, 14 are paid over €3,000 and managers earn €6,734 a month.
Asked about the pay cuts, union representative Michalis Stavrou was clear. “Of course bus company workers are not public sector employees, not by any stretch of imagination”, he said, adding that bus company workers have already been subjected to 15 per cent pay cuts to deal with the financial crisis.
“Lowering their wages even further is an outrage. These people already paid their fair share. A bus driver makes around 900-1200 a month and that’s if he is working full-time. One out of three are part-time employees. Office staff earn €900 a month. They can’t take any more cuts,” Stavrou said.
He said that if the government proceeds with the suggested pay cuts, bus workers will go on an indefinite strike. Asked what measures will be taken if the government decides to lower wages for high earners, Stavrou said this possibility was not the union’s concern. “You are talking about managers, shareholders and such. They are not part of our union and we don’t represent them. We represent the ordinary workers,” he said.
The bus companies came to the brink of indefinite strike recently, after the unions threatened to strike when workers weren’t paid for February. The strike was cancelled after the Labour Committee promised to intervene and settle the issue.
Communication and Works minister Tasos Mitsopoulos said that we are moving in minefield.
“This is what happens when there isn’t enough money to go around. We are coordinating with the companies, the unions and the Finance ministry to sort out the problem. We are asking for the Finance ministry to release the funds to pay the workers but as long as austerity measures are enforced, we will have problems,” the minister added.