By Andria Kades
UNIONS representing workers at the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) on Thursday called off their planned strike action, after the government agreed to delay the first stage in a process seen as culminating in the power utility’s privatisation.
The strikes that had been announced for Friday, and then from Monday daily, will now not be taking place.
The development follows an intervention by the House commerce committee, which arranged to hold an extraordinary session with all stakeholders on Tuesday, March 31, to discuss the issue of privatising the EAC.
On Thursday, the Privatisations Commissioner released a statement saying that a tender deadline for a study on the legal separation of the EAC has been pushed back two weeks, from March 31 to April 15.
In turn, the trade unions said they would suspend any industrial action until April 15, so as not to inconvenience the public.
The Privatisations Commissioner has initiated a tender for the appointment of an independent energy advisor “to provide professional services regarding the preparation of a study for the legal unbundling, the corporatisation and the privatisation of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, and the required regulatory review.”
EAC unions want the tender scrapped, and a new study initiated, to be carried out by them, the EAC and the energy ministry – taking the Privatisations Commissioner out of the loop.
But speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Andreas Panorkos, head of the EPOPAI trade union, warned that if the unions suspect the two-week truce is an attempt by the government to hoodwink them, they will not hesitate to press ahead with strikes.
Earlier in the day, before the breakthrough, the chairman of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, Othon Theodoulou, said that the strike measures would lead to outages disrupting economic activity.
Four worker unions, EPOPAI, SIDIKEK, SEPAIK and SIVAIK had said they would hold a 3-hour warning strike on Friday starting at 7am, which they would repeat daily from Monday onwards. Customer service was also to be closed during the time but resume normal service afterwards.
Theodoulou told state radio CyBC that Friday’s strike would generate a 60-megawatt production deficit, expected to rise to up to 120-megawatts next week, “which represents the demand of a single district”.
“I publicly appeal to the unions, while I respect their right to strike, to refrain from measures that will affect the organisation’s ability to smoothly provide electricity,” he had said.
Before news that the strikes were cancelled, the EAC had said that hospitals, tourist hot spots, government services and industries would not be affected.
The power company said it would timely inform the public about areas likely to be affected by outages.
“For this purpose, the EAC appeals to the public to limit power consumption and especially the use of energy-intensive devices during these hours,” the power company said in a statement.
“Persons whose health depends on power supply should take the necessary measures, as the EAC is not in a position to control supply to individual premises”.
The EAC expressed its regret to consumers for any inconvenience and reassured that it was making every effort to resolve the situation.
Under the terms of a state bailout agreed two years ago, Cyprus has to raise €1.4bn by privatising state owned companies, including the EAC, the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority and the commercial operations of the Limassol port. The completion of EAC’s privatisation is set for 2018.