By Constantinos Psillides
LAID-OFF staff of the now defunct national carrier Cyprus Airways (CY) protested on Thursday outside the Finance ministry, demanding that minister Harris Georgiades meets with union representatives to discuss issues of compensation and employment.
The minister later issued a statement saying that additional payment would be made within a few weeks, but re-hiring the airline’s staff was out of the question.
A crowd of around 100 people gathered outside while union representatives handed a resolution to a ministry official.
In contrast with previous protests, there was no incident.
The former employees demand immediate compensation for being terminated from their jobs and that the government guarantees their re-employment.
The CY employees point out that parliament approved the expenditure on May 4 but they still haven’t received any money.
“As workers that were thrust into unemployment, we are overflowed with feelings of rage. We believe that we deserve priority in matters that concern us,” read the resolution.
The state-owned airline entered voluntary liquidation on January 9, after the EU Commission ruled that it should return €66m in state aid it had received since 2012, breaching EU rules.
Finance minister Georgiades and Transport minister Marios Demetriades said that the state was looking into setting up a new company, in collaboration with the private sector. Six months after CY’s closure, the government had no luck in finding an investor that would be interested in buying the airline’s logo and operate a new airline based on the island. Georgiades had promised that provided they meet all other criteria, priority would be given to former CY staff when it came to employment in the new airline.
The minister responded to the employees’ demands later in the day, saying in a statement that the compensation issue will be resolved within the next few weeks.
“The total amount owed to the 525 employees and 65 pilots for redundancy is €68.23m. The state has also decided to give employees that left during the 2012-2014 period additional compensation so that they are treated equally with those who left in 2015. Up to now, we have paid out €35m and the rest will be processed by the Treasury department within the coming weeks,” read the statement, adding that further compensation or hiring the former CY employees in the public sector, as requested by the unions, is not possible.
“We have already informed the unions that this is not legally, financially or in any other was feasible,” responded Georgiades.