By Angelos Anastasiou
Ten employees will be let go at the Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation as part of the broadcaster’s ongoing effort to consolidate costs, the board chairman told the House Finance committee on Tuesday.
Presenting lawmakers with the state TV channel’s 2016 budget, Yiorgos Tsalakos said the broadcaster’s budget has been slashed to half over the last three years – from €50 to €24 million.
This year’s savings will focus on content, including the purchase of feature films, rights to sporting events, and joint productions.
The aim, Tsalakos said, is for the CyBC to produce as much content as possible itself.
He explained that the broadcaster’s management has been instructed to proceed with firing staff based on operational needs, noting that there will be no political or other selection criteria.
“The board does not want to know which individuals will be asked to leave,” Tsalakos said.
The CyBC board chairman’s remarks drew criticism from political leaders and employee unions.
“We are living in times of increased sensitivity in government spending,” said DISY leader Averof Neophytou.
“But I feel that before someone tables staff reductions, they must have exhausted every other possible source of savings. DISY will not accept anyone’s victimisation while overspending that can be reduced continues.”
He added that the CyBC must not “thoughtlessly spend” funds to buy content, thus unfairly competing with privately-owned channels that operate without burdening the taxpayer.
“First we must look at unnecessary spending, and if we can’t find sufficient savings there we will look at the issue of staff, always through social sensitivity,” he said.
Even more scathing were the comments made by opposition AKEL leader Andros Kyprianou.
“I would like to remind the CyBC board chairman’s promise in our recent meeting that there would be no firing or redundancies before the necessary consultations with employee unions,” Kyprianou said.
He added that any unilateral decision on these matters will incur AKEL’s wrath.
“There should be discussion to find solutions, and releasing staff should be the last resort,” he said.
“This is not the time to push people into unemployment.”
CyBC employee union SIDIKEK PEO announced it will hold a union meeting on Thursday to discuss measures in response to the board’s plans.
“We condemn the CyBC chairman’s statement for the firing of ten colleagues in the coming period,” the union said in a statement.
Suggesting that the move is aimed at benefiting private TV channels, the union said it will not accept unilateral decisions.
“At a time when every new firing may trigger a new suicide, those who choose to paint their hands with the blood of the fired should know that it will bring consequences,” the union warned.