By Evie Andreou
The owner of the office building that houses the fisheries department agreed to let the employees back into their offices after a phone communication on Wednesday with Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis.
The employees have been locked out of their offices for three days, after the property’s owner placed padlocks on the entrances on Monday, following disagreements on the rental agreement with the ministry. On Wednesday morning, before the owner agreed to let them in, several employees had to climb the fence to get to their offices.
On Tuesday night the legal service secured a court order forbidding the owner from preventing access to the department’s employees, but until Wednesday noon, it had not been given to him as he could not be found in person.
Kouyialis had said he would handle the matter personally and that if it was not resolved, the fisheries department would move to another building.
Earlier on Wednesday, he characterised the owner’s rent demands as absurd, as the new contract, which is under negotiation, provides for a €220,000 annual rent gradually increasing to €317,000.
“He didn’t receive the court order yet, but after we spoke on the phone he is willing to open the doors. The most important thing is that the employees are allowed to go into their offices,” Kouyialis said.
He added that he was expecting the owner to meet him, to resolve the issue of the rental contract.
The head of the state agency that deals with housing government services Alecos Michaelides, had said earlier in the week that taking into consideration the building’s high standards, €200,000 – the previous rent – was a sensible amount. He also said that if the agriculture ministry decided to move the fisheries department from there, another government service had expressed an interest in moving in.