By Andria Kades
LIFEGUARDS protested outside Akti Olympion beach in Limassol demanding the regulating of their profession, extending their working hours and be employed all year round.
“We believe these working hours are not sufficient. There are swimmers who come early in the morning and swimmers that come late in the afternoons. These people and their families have no protection while they’re at the beach,” a representative from the Limassol lifeguards team Panicos Aravis said.
Protestors from associations across the country gathered at the Akti Olympion beach at 8.30am finishing in time to get to their posts at 10am. Their shifts that end at 5pm are not sufficient, they argued.
“Last year there were no deaths at lifeguard stations during working hours. On the other hand, we had the tragic incident last year of a death in Larnaca at 6.05pm and a death in Paphos a day after the posts shut,” the Cyprus Life Saving Federation leader Polis Pallikaros said.
“We’re talking about lives here and life can’t be measured with money.”
Although efforts began in 2002, since 2005 there has been a pending draft legislation that was submitted to the Interior ministry “for securing the profession that would regulate everything that needs to be regulated for our beaches,” Pallikaros said.
Although some action was taken from the part of Interior minister Socrates Hasikos such as re-hiring hourly paid staff and allowing an eight month working period from April 1 to November 30, if authorities really want tourism all year round then lifeguards should be posted for 12 months, he added.
Aravis stressed that the unemployment benefits they receive from December to March when they do not work do not have a major difference from their regular wages. “We want some kind of arrangement… so that we can work all 12 months, since there’s no extra spending, the money that is already spent will be almost the same.”
He said it was unacceptable that lifeguards’ work was classified as ‘unskilled labour’ while there should be an insurance scheme and provident funds “just like other government services”.
It is also unacceptable that the public is advised to avoid the beach during lunch hours and to prefer early morning and late afternoons when there are no lifeguards around, he said.
Equipment, he added, also needs to be replaced such as their boats and expressed hope for a positive response from the government.