By Angelos Anastasiou
Cyprus Ports Authority employees are prepared to take over some of the Limassol port’s services if government plans to privatise it press ahead, the CPA employees’ union chairman Demetris Patsalos said.
Speaking to reporters after meeting with Troika technocrats, Patsalos said the union stands squarely against privatisations, but added that if they cannot be avoided, “the CPA employees’ union has a plan B ready, which includes the taking over, along with other parties forming a consortium, the services offered by the Limassol port”.
Asked to list the services the employees might be interested in buying the right to offer, Patsalos said their interest was limited to certain services offered exclusively by CPA employees, namely pilot and towing services.
“Through borrowing from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and with the help of other collaborators we can buy the right to offer these services ourselves,” he said, adding that their goal was to broaden the scope of the services in order to increase revenues to the benefit of the wider economy.
“If we are not given the chance to buy these services, our effort will be to purchase the whole package of CPA services.”
Though several unions represent CPA staff, Patsalos said his – SYALK – represents the vast majority of pilots and towing employees.
Patsalos claimed that strategic partners in France and Switzerland were eager to express their interest in buying services.
He noted that “it is now up to the government to determine the price-tag,” adding that these services are “consistently loss-making” as the CPA makes a profit only on levies on cargo imports.
“That is because of the CPA’s pricing model,” explained Patsalos. “On the one hand, it levies a blanket fee on imports, but does not apportion the income to each service offered, so the CPA as a whole shows a profit whereas individual services show losses. On the other, relative to international standards, the CPA charges just too little.”
Patsalos’ union has submitted a comprehensive proposal to the CPA’s board, in which the union argues the case for keeping the port’s services in Cypriot hands, and protecting the interests of valuable employees.
“We will try to offer voluntary exit packages to individuals who are close to the retirement age, thus protecting those who have many career years ahead,” said Patsalos.
“What we will not do is protect people who were employed at the CPA but have shown themselves unwilling to exhibit the necessary strength. We do not want freeloaders.”