By Angelos Anastasiou
A SUPPLEMENTARY item of €41.1 million was added to the Cyprus Ports’ Authority (CPA) 2015 budget to pay for the denationalisation of the ports of Larnaca and Limassol, House Finance committee chairman Angelos Votsis said on Monday.
According to Votsis, the item consists of a budgeted €31.1 million towards buying back the licences issued to 116 porters, plus €10 million for the voluntary retirement of CPA staff who wish to exit.
But porters’ union rep Demetris Patsalos said after the committee session that, while porters wish to bid for the services of navigation and towing, they have been asked to leave their jobs first.
According to Transport Minister Marios Demetriades, the 54 licensed porters are self-employed operating as companies and employing 62 individuals, and the buy-back amount of €31.1 million was calculated on the basis of their annual profitability.
He acknowledged that what had been essentially a closed profession will see licences revoked as porting operations will be sold to the strategic investor that will take over the ports.
But, he noted, the state will receive the porters’ compensation from the investor, pointing out that revenues for the state will increase as the investor’s operations grow.
The transport minister said the government will try to convince the private investor that will take over the ports to prioritise the hiring of the current porters.
With regard to the voluntary exit scheme for CPA employees, Demetriades conceded that terms have yet to be agreed, but excluded firings.
He added that CPA employees will have the option of being transferred to the public sector or taking the voluntary redundancy scheme, for which a bill will be tabled in September.
On the other hand, Patsalos countered that CPA employees are the only ones who can carry out the navigation and towing tasks, as they have received appropriate training.
In a statement later on Monday, Patsalos’ union SYALK-POAS said that “these services are offered exclusively by CPA employees, and no one within Cyprus is in a position to offer them”.
With regard to the employees’ request to be allowed to carry on conducting these support operations, the union said that the transport ministry was squarely negative.
“They would not even allow us to discuss the issue, simply pointing out that we may bid for these services when tenders are invited,” it said.
“But interested parties must resign their posts before bidding, which practically translates to at least a year of joblessness before the operations are assigned.”