By Angelos Anastasiou
EIGHT out of 11 Cyprus Airways board members have been served with a court summons as part of a lawsuit brought by 60 of the company’s 71 pilots, protesting a cost-cutting decision to slash the employer’s contribution to their provident fund from 8.0 to 1.0 per cent for 15 months.
The summonses were delivered by bailiffs in the middle of a board meeting on Thursday.
The remaining three board members were spared the fate of the others as two were absent from meeting while the third – a pilot himself – had been the minority dissenter in the vote after citing a legal opinion.
Pilots’ refusal to accept the cuts notwithstanding, the remaining four Cyprus Airways employee unions were unanimous in recognising the need for the floundering carrier to consolidate its finances or face the risk of collapse and have accepted the measure, issuing a statement criticising the pilots for their refusal, which they deemed a “blatant subversion” of efforts to save the company.
“Unfortunately we are saddened to note that this is not the first time that our pilot colleagues act in a manner that hinders, instead of facilitating, the company’s efforts of survival”, the statement said.
But the pilots’ union PASYPI claims its members have already contributed more than their fair share in the cuts and can take no more, and argues that fat-trimming efforts should concentrate on getting rid of excess staff and departments to match the reduction of the company’s fleet to six aircraft and network of destinations, which it claims is the result of political meddling in the company’s management.
“If the state or the (political) parties want to keep more staff or to supplement the rest of the staff’s fund, then the state and the parties should pay for it,” said PASYPI chairman Petros Souppouris. “Pilots cannot accept further cuts.”
After the February meeting that saw the union deciding to go the legal route, Souppouris did not mince words when he put the blame on “failed executives”, referring to the company’s management, in an effort to explain the tragic state of the carrier’s finances.
Local daily Phileleftheros reported that the 7.0 per cent cut on provident funds translates to approximate losses of €10.000 to €15.000 per pilot for the duration of the measure.
Tony Antoniou, chairman of the carrier’s board, confirmed the subpoenas but did not offer further comment.
Cyprus Airways is in the midst of a tight race to convince the European Commission of its viability by fall 2014, and has implemented a severe restructuring plan to this end. The Commission started looking into the carrier after it had received capital injections from the government, a practice that could constitute state aid which is forbidden by EU competition law.
“The commission has doubts whether the restructuring plan is suitable to ensure Cyprus Airways’ long-term viability and whether the airline is capable of withstanding likely challenges in the air transport market during the next years,” the Commission has said.