By Andria Kades
PORT workers continued to abstain from overtime work on Friday as a sign of protest against the privatisation of the Cyprus Ports Authority and said they may even resort to stronger measures.
This, according to SIDIKEK PEO union member Giorgos Epaminondas, is a unilateral decision jointly undertaken by DEOK, SYALK and SYPYALK unions.
“We want MPs to understand our point of view,” he said and although their opinions have been made loud and clear, “it is obvious they don’t agree with us.”
Although Limassol port chief Andreas Pouros said that ships were being serviced, “these measures cannot go on.”
“We did have some problems today but the ships managed to depart. The port will remain closed on the weekend (as this falls under overtime work) and two ships that are expected to arrive from Europe will have to stop over in Beirut and enter on Monday.”
Work is now more rushed and giving an example, he said that a ship that needed to stay in the port longer, loading empty crates, did not have the time to so. “They’ll have to do that another time,” Pouros said.
Epaminondas said he was aware that problems in the ports would continue and worsen if they continued to abstain from overtime work, as ships will come under more pressure since most of the work is often done during afternoon hours – shortly before overtime starts.
On Monday, unions are expected to head to the capital for discussions in parliament with talks continuing on Tuesday.
The Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEB) in a statement blasted the unions saying, “without a doubt, it is about time to end anarchy and bring about the smooth operation (of the ports) by regulating strikes in necessary services.”
“For the umpteenth time recently, the economy and taxpayers are forced to bear the consequences of the inexcusable industrial action in the port of Limassol” particularly during “a period where the economy is struggling to recover”.
On Thursday, the government submitted to parliament a supplementary budget of €41.1m for the Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA), covering payouts related to the pending privatisation of the ports at Limassol and Larnaca.
Of the additional expenditures, €31.1m will be given to licensed porters, the remaining €10m to be paid out to CPA employees opting for early retirement.
A number of employees are expected to be made redundant once the ports’ commercial operations are handed over to private operators.
The privatisation of commercial operations at the two ports is an obligation stemming from a bailout deal between Cyprus and international creditors.