Cyprus Mail

CyTA staff protest against privatisations

By Angelos Anastasiou

Employee unions at the semi-state Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) on Wednesday held the first in a series of protests against the government’s denationalisation programme.

CyTA employees gathered at 8am at the pedestrian overpass on Limassol Avenue in Nicosia, holding placards with slogans against the organisation’s planned privatisation. The demonstration lasted an hour.

“End the fire-sale, semi-state [organisations] belong to the public,” a sign hung from the overpass read, while another read “No to denationalisation. Yes to modernisation.”

Individual employees held signs criticising the philosophy of privatisations.

“They are selling the cow to buy some milk,” read one, while another said “You can’t sell what isn’t yours.”

Another sign directed a barb directly at President Nicos Anastasiades, whose infamous pre-election commitment that he would “never” accept the seizing of bank deposits was woefully contradicted weeks after his election.

“I pledge. Do you know any other jokes?” the banner said, playing on Anastasiades’ pre-election commitment that he would seek not the privatisation of semi-state organisations, but merely issuing equity so that private funds can be attracted.

Addressing the gathered crowd, left-wing union PEO leader Pambis Kiritsis said that the struggle is not only designed to benefit employees but also the public.

“The only thing privatisation would achieve is to make  public organizations available only to those who can afford them,” he said.

“It is a scheme that will make the poor poorer, and the state smaller.”

CyTA employees’ union rep Alecos Tryfonides told reporters that the protest marked the start of the “second phase” of mobilizations, which aims to “send the right messages to the Cypriot public”.

“Another theft is in the works, after the haircut, after the bank bonds – this time of wealth belonging to the Cypriot people,” he said, referring to the 2013 seizing of uninsured bank deposits from the island’s top two lenders, as well bonds sold to investors who lost all their money after the banking sector collapse two years ago.

“The Cypriot public is slowly realizing this theft, and a large majority of the people is against privatizations,” he added, arguing that “organizations like CyTA and the Electricity Authority of Cyprus need to be modernized and remain a fundamental pillar of the state”.

Tryfonides cited the reported interest by investment behemoths in the Cyprus Ports Authority to imply that SGOs are far more valuable than the government would have people think.

“At the same time that we publicly undervalue semi-state organizations ourselves, foreigners covet them and want to use them to their benefit, driving profits from these organizations abroad so that they can then lend us some of the money they make here,” he said.

PEO rep Doros Theodorou said the unions are not satisfied with the government’s commitment that work positions at CyTA are safe even in the event of privatization.

“Whether an employee will remain a public employee is not the only important thing,” he said.

“The rest of his career, and prospects of promotion, are also extremely important. The issue of career is very important to us, and it is not fully safeguarded.”

Pointing out that a large part of CyTA employees are specialized technicians, Theodorou wondered “how can we say that people’s jobs are safe if a telecommunications engineer is transferred to the Agriculture ministry?”

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