By Evie Andreou
COMMUNICATIONS and Works minister Marios Demetriades yesterday said he had no idea why the Larnaca and Limassol port workers went on yet another strike.
The minister, who was at the House Transport Committee’s discussion on the agreement concerning the privatisation of services at Larnaca port, said that it was unthinkable for strikes to be announced without a specific reason.
After the committee meeting, the Cyprus Port Authority (CPA) workers’ union announced they were going on strike because they did not agree with the privatisation process of the Larnaca port and they feared that the same process would be followed for the Limassol port, the unions’ general secretary Andreas Georgiou told the Cyprus Mail.
During the committee’s meeting, union members protested outside parliament with banners saying “we will always be a hindrance to your plans” and “they sell the ports which are profitable”.
“Privatisations don’t benefit the CPA, the state, the employees or society; it is only the foreign or local investors that will benefit from the earnings that today go to the state,” said PEO’s George Epaminondas.
Last week, Larnaca port workers called for a 48-hour strike because the committee had not discussed the agreement between the government and Zenon consortium on the development of the Larnaca port and marina, but called it off after they received an invitation from the committee to discuss the agreement yesterday.
“We have arranged a general meeting in the morning to discuss further measures; we believe that the whole process leads to the sell out of the CPA,” Georgiou said.
“Before employees go on strike they should consider the consequences on the Cyprus economy,” Demetriades warned.
He added that the economy cannot afford strikes, especially in a sensitive sector like the ports and that a small professional group cannot hold hostage the economy without a substantial reason whatsoever.
“I met several times with the employees, whom I have reassured that their rights will be safeguarded,” Demetriades said.
Since late 2012, when the contract was concluded, the government has granted Zenon consortium several extensions until it was able to secure funds for the project.
Demetriades explained that the consortium said it had the funds for the first phase of the project.
“We will be in a position to provide more information next month, as negotiations with Zenon need to be completed first, at least when it comes to the main terms of the agreement,” Demetriades said.
He added that the goal of the government is to secure its interests and that of the port workers, and to reach an agreement concerning the project which is of great importance to the whole Larnaca district.
If all goes well, work will begin in the summer, he said.
Zenon, consisting of the Paraskevaides Group, Iacovou Bros, Petrolina and Vouros, had signed an agreement with the government in 2012 for the development of the Larnaca port and marina worth a reported €700m.
Demetriades said that the Larnaca port will mainly serve cruise ships and the aim is to also upgrade the marina. He added that the onshore development will be in the best interest of the consortium, but in the case it fails to utilise it within a set timeframe, then the land will be returned to the state.