Cyprus Mail

Unions cling on to CY’s last breath

By Angelos Anastasiou

AS Cyprus Airways’ prospects seem bleaker than ever, President Nicos Anastasiades needs to knock on every door in order to persuade the European Union that the company can become viable and attract a strategic investor, employee union SEK’s leader Nicos Moiseos said yesterday.

To this end, the union sent a letter to Anastasiades informing him that all CY employee unions have agreed to further cuts as part of an updated restructuring plan for the ailing airline.

The carrier, whose future hinges on an imminent European Competition Commission ruling on whether some €80m injected into the company by previous governments constitute state aid – forbidden by European competition law – and must be returned, triggering its immediate bankruptcy, has failed to attract a strategic investor willing to inject capital and take it over, despite efforts by the government and the board since last summer.

“On December 23, a deal was clinched with the company on new cuts of worker rights in order to finalise the updated restructuring plan,” Moiseos said. “The aim is to persuade the European Competition Commission to approve the continuance of CY’s operation.”

While speculation is rife that the competition commission’s ruling – reportedly already pushed back to allow Cyprus to solve the airline’s problems – will be negative and could be announced as early as next week, Moiseos insisted that no decision has been made yet.

“This is a safe assumption,” he told state radio. “The government is preparing an updated restructuring plan to present to the European authority in the coming days – which it would not be doing had a decision been made.”

Moiseos said all employee unions agreed to the new terms, except for the pilots. Their union PASYPI has long been waging a war against the government’s handling of the issue and has opposed most all of the action taken, even taking to the courts in order to safeguard their rights.

“The pilots’ strategy all these years is well-established,” said Moiseos. “They choose to represent the interests of their small member-group only.”

As if to drive the point home, PASYPI was quick to issue a statement blasting Finance minister Harris Georgiades and – especially – Communications minister Marios Demetriades, whom they accused of launching a “disinformation” campaign and deemed “dangerous to the public.”

“President Anastasiades, who preaches a zero-tolerance policy on scandals and corruption, should start from the Communications minister, whom we consider a danger to the state and the public, before it is too late,” the pilots said.

They were referring to allegations of Demetriades’ involvement in two investment funds linked with Piraeus Bank – which both bank and minister stated has not been the case since Demetriades was appointed – and suggesting this constituted a conflict of interest.

Predictably, the attack sparked a reaction from the Communications minister.

In a statement, Demetriades countered that he has responded publicly to “all baseless allegations.”

“Cyprus Airways have come to such a tragic state because no one has ever had the courage and the boldness to implement the required solutions,” he said. “Anyone who claims to have evidence on any issue that concerns me must deliver it to the Auditor-general immediately.”

“Simple truth is stronger than lies and mud-slinging, even if some try for the opposite,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus Tourist Agents’ association (ACTA) listed the uncertainty surrounding the future of Cyprus Airways as one of its key challenges in the new year.

“The association has asked for the immediate appointment of a Tourism Undersecretary or Commissioner, who would be strengthened by the creation of a National Tourism Committee comprising tourism bodies from the private and public sectors, as well as industry experts,” ACTA said in a statement.

“We stand ready to join forces with the state and other tourism stakeholders, in order to contribute to the resolution of the tourism industry’s problems,” it added.

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