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Minister tries to iron out differences with port unions

The port unions are not at all satisfied with the governments proposals ahead of the denationalisations

By George Psyllides

PORT worker unions and the transport ministry have scheduled a fresh meeting for Thursday in a bid to iron out their differences over privatisations and avoid industrial action later this month.

A meeting with Transport Minister Marios Demetriades on Tuesday did not appear to satisfy unions, whose main gripe is the voluntary exit scheme that will be put in place ahead of the denationalisation.

“It was agreed to have individual meetings to clarify certain issues regarding the voluntary retirement scheme,” Demetriades said after the meeting.

A second meeting has been agreed for next week to resolve any misunderstandings.

The issues on the table concern transferring port workers to the civil service, the new structure of the ports authority, and the voluntary retirement scheme.

“The third issue is where some differences have emerged,” the minister said. A proposal has been given to the unions and a meeting with a sub-committee has been scheduled for Thursday so that explanations can be given.

If necessary, Demetriades said, he would also meet with the unions next week.

He added that the government was prepared to discuss some of the union suggestions.

“The plan we have proposes has not fallen from the sky. A lot of meetings and discussions with the unions have already taken place,” the minister said.

Announcing strike measures with no substantive reason is counter productive and only did damage to the island’s economy, he added.

SYPALK union boss Evgenios Zenonos said they were not satisfied at all with the meeting and there had not been any serious result.

It was positive that a new meeting was scheduled for Thursday in the hope that something good might come up so that they could convince their members not to go ahead with a strike.

Zenonos said there was no official voluntary retirement scheme.

“There is no scheme. They got an actuary who writes five-ten things; unofficially. It is a bit of a take it or leave it. We do not negotiate this way,” he said.

Zenonos said they were not satisfied with the transfer provisions either since there were specialised professions in the ports that could not be found elsewhere in the public sector.

The workers want to be placed somewhere with the same conditions and prospects the currently have.

“If the minister ensures there will be advancement in any of the structures we enter then we would gladly not go on strike,” he said.

Workers at the port of Limassol went on a 24-hour strike earlier this month citing lack of progress in the dialogue with the government.

Members of DEOK, SYALK and SYPALK also decided stage a two-day strike on August 27 and 28 if their demands were not met.

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