By Constantinos Psillides
MASS protests against foreclosures are being planned by a platform created on Tuesday by labour, pensioner unions and farmer unions in addition to parents’ associations.
Society Reacts and Demands is set to hold its first demonstration outside the presidential palace next Wednesday at 6pm, a day before the House plenum is due to discuss the matter.
“Cypriot citizens are faced for the first time since 1974 with the prospect of losing their homes, their businesses and their land. It’s a tragic thing for people who lost their jobs, their incomes to have to resort to food banks and rely on handouts,” the group’s representative Soteris Vlahos said.
“The financial crisis was triggered by greedy bank hotshots who handled the public’s deposits as part of a game of international profit. Instead of punishing those responsible, the government let people be exposed to banks’ greedy policy and thus running the risk of losing their homes,” he read from a declaration.
Representatives from all unions and associations met on Tuesday in Nicosia to coordinate their actions.
Commenting on the pending foreclosures bill, Vlahos characterised it as a “socially criminal and catastrophic policy, that threatens to destroy society and cannot contribute to the so-called economy reboot.”
The bill needs to be passed to ensure the next tranche of bailout funds. It is designed to allow banks to be paid back for property loans but will protect vulnerable groups from loosing their homes.
The newly formed platform called upon all political parties not vote for the bill.
Trade union DEOK’s general secretary Diomidis Diomidous said a letter has been drafted to be sent to all parties asking them to commit on not voting for the foreclosures bill in its present form.
It should be noted that the troika of lenders made it clear that they would accept no amendements on the foreclosures bill, having actually rejected a series of eight proposals made by the House of Representatives. The government is looking into drafting additional bills to alleviate the fears of the House parties.
The unions forming the new platform – among others- are trade unions PEO and DEOK (the union branch of AKEL and EDEK respectively), the Large Families Association, the Initiative Against Foreclosures, the pensioners union EKYSY, farmers’ union EKA and Nea Agrotiki as well as various parents’ associations.
Asked on why SEK, the third of the trade unions which traditionally allies with governing DISY, wasn’t part of the platform, PEO chief Pambos Kiritsis said that they were sent a draft of the declaration but didn’t respond.
Meanwhile, head of the newly-formed union of small businesses and self-employed individuals (SYMEA) Stavros Alampritis told the press they will be symbolically setting up a tent outside the House of Representatives. “That tent represents the future home of Cypriots following approval of the foreclosures bill. We will be moving our headquarters there and a representative of SYMEA will be available 24/7 to help anyone who is threatened by banks,” he said.
On Monday SYMEA filed a class-action suit against all lenders in an attempt to derail the foreclosures bill and have all extra charges imposed by banks on non-performing loans removed.
By Constantinos Psillides