By Constantinos Psillides
A new weekend overtime ban by Cyprus Port Authority (CPA) workers was averted at the eleventh hour on Friday, after the union side agreed to new overtime talks next week.
CPA workers, who have been striking and refraining from overtime on and off for the past three weeks are in disagreement with the transport and finance ministries, which want to reduce overtime allowances. The unions have rejected all proposals made so far, insisting that no cuts be made.
A new proposal submitted early Friday was also rejected by the workers who immediately called for a new work to rule over the weekend.
Transport Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos said he was very disappointed at the development, tweeting “Stormy weather once more in our ports. Unfortunately we are undermining our credibility and driving customers away. We are putting the burden on the public”.
The new threat to prompted the CPA into action, drafting yet another new proposal. The workers then decided to call off their measures and enter new negotiations on Tuesday.
According to a union representative, the workers want to be exempt from the reduction in overtime pay imposed on public sector workers, arguing that their overtime work is far different from a regular employee’s overtime.
“A public sector employee rarely needs to do overtime work. Most of the time they choose to do so to catch up on work. We have to be here, rain or snow. If a ship’s cargo is not processed it can’t leave the port so we have to work weekends and holidays. We have to work overtime. We don’t have the option of not working,” the union representative told the Cyprus Mail.
Dockworkers, who are a part of the CPA workforce, do not approve of the union’s stance. According to the representative, the dockworkers are willing to work and wait for the conclusion of the negotiations with relevant ministries and voted overwhelmingly against going on strike. “Despite their willingness to work, without the aid of the administrative staff is impossible for the unloading process to be completed and ships have to stay in port,” said the union representative.
News that the threat of new measures has been lifted at least for now, was greeted with relief by the business community. Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry general secretary Marios Tsiakkis told the Cyprus Mail that any new measures would have been a major mistake and would have grave consequences on the economy.
“We are already suffering from the previous port measures. New ones would be catastrophic. Our credibility is already severely undermined and shipping costs have shot through the roof. By continuing strikes we are sending the message to shipping companies that we are just not reliable,” said Tsiakkis, adding that companies exporting goods were also being affected, further damaging Cyprus’ image abroad.