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Our View: Rational solutions appear to be unacceptable in union-run Cyprus

IF WE HAD needed reminding that Cyprus is a union-run country, it was provided by the government proposals aimed at placating CyTA’s pampered employees ahead of privatisation. The government gave four options to the 1,650 full-time staff and 600 contract workers to choose from, regardless of whether these were practical, realistic or affordable. Quite clearly, the only objective was to keep the workers happy and ensure their unions would stop opposing privatisation which is an obligation under the memorandum.

The first option relates to the staff who will carry on working for the new, privately-owned CyTA – they would be given shares in the new company and enjoy the same conditions and terms of work as per the existing collective agreements. The second allows staff to work for the new company during the 12-month transitional period at the end of which they will be able to return to the old CyTA which would have given them unpaid leave; they would get no shares. The third option is the only sensible one – voluntary retirement. The fourth option allows workers to remain on the books of the old CyTA – for pension purposes – but will be given jobs in the public service.

It is beyond a joke that the old CyTA would remain so that staff could carry on receiving their princely wages and be guaranteed big pensions when they retire. How could workers that were paid a big salary to do a job requiring technical expertise at specific company, carry on receiving the same wage for doing a job in the public sector at which the technical expertise counts for nothing? This is not rational use of resources. And what if the public service has no need for another 100 managers at the top of the pay scale? Would we pay the old CyTA employees to do nothing?

The taxpayer is also entitled to an explanation regarding the guaranteed pensions for the employees that will carry on being employed by the old CyTA, which will have no income. Where will the government find the money to carry on paying the extortionate pensions CyTA employees have been promised, considering the old entity will have zero revenue? Will all the money received from the sale of the organisation go towards paying pensions for the next 40 years? The government needs to explain how the options it has offered staff would be funded, because the taxpayer should also have a say in this matter. We have a right to know what the cost of maintaining old CyTA’s pension payment would cost the taxpayer.

The taxpayer’s interest is never considered by the government and the parties when the unions are making a noise. As for rational solutions, they are unacceptable in union-run Cyprus.

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