IT WAS almost stomach-churning to read the self-congratulatory announcement by EAC unions yesterday after they managed to secure in full their demand from the government to have their views be taken into consideration in a study into the privatisation of the authority.
As part of a deal reached at midnight on Monday with Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, the unions have managed to worm their way into the process following strike threats last month.
Under the terms of the island’s bailout, the EAC must be fully privatised by 2018 – incidentally an election year – and the government was about to invite tenders for a study through the privatisation commissioner on whether the organisation could be legally unbundled and transformed into a private company, and if so when that might be possible.
As the deadline for the tenders invite neared, the unions called a strike demanding the privatisation commissioner’s tender be scrapped and issued anew.
The tenders deadline was pushed back to April 15 in order to avert the imminent strike, and Lakkotrypis started talks with the unions after the intervention of MPs. The study will now be carried out by the finance and energy ministries – not the privatisation commissioner – along with EAC technocrats as observers who can put across the concerns of the union.
An announcement from the unions yesterday congratulated themselves for “the dynamism, unity, and determination” they had shown. One of the union chiefs Andreas Panorkos also made it clear that the EAC workers had not abandoned their position that the EAC should not be privatised.
When the strike action was first announced, Lakkotrypis appeared to be taking a step back from the certainty that the EAC would be privatised by saying the study was being carried out only to determine if it could be done, and how – indicating that it was not a done deal.
All the government has achieved now – in the public’s perception at least – is reinforce the view that it has no intention of privatising the EAC.
It has also given the unions more ammunition to make further threats down the line in the full knowledge that they can get away with almost anything literally with the flick of a switch.
The government is also sending the message to workers at CyTA and the Cyprus Ports Authorty, which are also slated for privatisation, that it can be easily swayed from its obligations under the bailout deal with a few threats to hold hostage a recovering economy.
If all of this is merely a ruse on the government’s part to placate the unions at a crucial time for the economy before eventually sticking the boot in, we hope it has a good plan because if the privatisations are to go ahead, it is going to have to stand up to the unions sooner or later. It really should have been sooner.