Cyprus Mail

Porters get more money out of government (Update)

By Angelos Anastasiou

IN addition to almost €30m to be paid to the Limassol port’s 31 licensed porters, the cabinet on Wednesday reportedly decided to up its initial offer of €1m in compensation to the porters’ 62 employees to be terminated by a further €500,000.

Although the state has no contractual relationship with the licensed porters’ employees, it has agreed to undertake their compensation after the porters declined to shoulder the cost during negotiations with the government over the commercialisation of the ports.

But an initial decision of a sum total €1m of taxpayer money being offered to private employees as redundancy compensation was met with threats for strikes, and the cabinet decided to increase the amount by €0.5m in exchange for labour peace, according to daily Politis.

And this in addition to the initial offer of €20m to porters, which will be supplemented with some €8m when the port’s services are handed over to private investors next year.

The numbers suggest that the porters will each net at least €500,000 in exchange for abolishing their profession, while their employees will each bag €24,000 for being fired.

Porters in Limassol have in the past effectively shut down the port by going on strike, meaning ships could not be serviced and translating to huge losses for traders and economic disruptions.

A proposal submitted by employers’ federation OEV last May called for instituting a conflict-resolution procedure that would enable for the arbitration of labour disputes at essential government services, like the Cyprus Ports Authority and the Electricity Authority of Cyprus, allowing strike action as the last resort after every other option has been exhausted.

But the proposal gained no political traction following public outcry by trade unions and opposition parties and was never seriously discussed.

Porters and their employees agreed to service the port as normal until operations are taken over by the private investors after March 2016.

At the same time, during negotiations, Transport minister Marios Demetriades pledged to try to convince the new private port operators to hire the porters back.

Demetriades defended the cabinet’s decision, arguing that the benefits – financial and otherwise – from privatising the ports far outweigh the cost of letting the porters go.

According to the Transport minister, strike action at the Limassol port would incur losses of millions of euros to the government, and this deal negates the risk at little cost.

It is estimated that until March 2016, the government will receive some €13m from porters in servicing fees.

The 31 licensed porters made average annual profits of €9m, which is why the government considered the payment of €28m as compensation for their operation “reasonable, and in no way excessive”.

“The government’s main goal since the start of negotiations with the porters, has been to safeguard labour peace at the ports, which are the economic lung of our country, and this was achieved to the maximum extent possible,” Demetriades said in a statement on Thursday .

“With regard to the benefits to the state from the commercialisation of the Limassol port, the compensation agreed with the porters are a reasonable, and in no way excessive, sum,” he said.


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