By Andria Kades
UNIONS affiliated with the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority (CyTA) are likely to meet with President Nicos Anastasiades next Monday to discuss the government bill set to create a new telecoms company under the privatisation bill.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Alekos Tryfonides, general secretary for PASE-ATIK said unions and employees were kept in the dark about what the new system entailed, learning everything from the press.
“None of the information was shared with us,” he said and while the proposals may be pleasing to the ear “they are just empty words that cannot be applied.”
For instance, where would the hundreds of CyTA employees work if they were to be absorbed in the civil service. Although they are guaranteed a job, it does not mean this was practical, he said.
Additionally, Tryfonides said he was opposed to the notion that CyTA staff who are employed by the state would then work for a private company after it was sold on to an investor, arguing that it was unconstitutional.
“CyTA offers a public service. How are you going to take that, have it as a private company, and then sell it on?” he said. Employees were hired as state employees and their status should not be changed, he added.
Asked whether he was pleased with the notion that staff could be shareholders in the new company he said: “What shares? Of what value? The solution is to work with today’s status quo.”
Repeating that the proposals cannot be implemented he also clarified the issue of age discrimination in relation to pensions that unions are seeking to resolve. Following Troika intervention two years ago, it was decided that once the privatisation bills were underway the terms under which people received their pensions would change.
Currently, all employee pension payments are half of the final salary irrelevant of what age they are when they retire. Following Troika’s visit however, they outlined that while this system could continue for people aged over 45, things would be different for those below 45.
The pension payments for the latter would be the average of all their salaries put together, dropping the bar for someone who moved up the pay scale during their career.
“There’s no logic in this, they just put it out there. Why 45? Why not 47 or 51?” Tryfonides said.
In his view, everyone should abide by the same rules and their age should not matter. As long as they fulfil the criteria that makes them eligible to retire, their age is irrelevant, he said.
From his negotiations with government, he told the Cyprus Mail that parliament sees eye to eye with him on this view and a bill submitted to parliament in May outlines that this discrepancy should be changed.
While all unions are unanimous in their opposition to privatisations, PEO – SIDIKEK general-secretary Antonis Neophytou’s stance was that unfortunately they were now in a position where although this may be a bitter pill to swallow, they are considering the government proposals.
Provided they are passed through parliament and included in the bill, actually implemented and not remain hanging in the air as a promise, then they accept them as long as they are covered by the law and despite their stance on privatisation, this is something they could follow through with.
The proposals outline four options following CyTA’s privatisation which include moving to the new private organisation that will be run by the new investors with a package of free shares, work in the new company but retain their position at state-owned CyTA on unpaid leave until either the employee or the employer decide to scrap either of the posts, apply for a voluntary exit plan that will be made available in the meantime, or be seconded to the civil service.
Anastasiades was expected to submit the government bill on the new telecoms company to the Cabinet this week but postponed it to August 26, according to the Cyprus News Agency, following union’s reaction.
They sent him a letter on Friday, which he received at the presidential palace in Troodos on Saturday outlining their reservations and objections. Heeding their concerns, he decided to postpone the date.
Opposition AKEL issued their own announcement outlining their opposition to CyTA’s privatisation saying the profits would “instead of being returned to society, go into the pockets of big businessmen” and would not serve the needs of society as the only aim would be to profit.
“Sensitive topics of national security will go into the hands of private investors with incalculable consequences.”