By Annette Chysostomou
The finance ministry has pledged to reassess the slashing of 22 jobs in the forestry department following a protest on Monday over the proposed layoffs.
“The abolition of 22 posts of forest officers will cause serious problems to the ability of the department to function properly,” the union members said in the statement which they handed over to the head of the House finance committee Angelos Votsis.
“This reduction is in addition to the 23 forest officers and four conservation officer positions already eliminated in the last four years,” they added.
Handing over the note was part of a work stoppage which was held from 8.30am to 10.30am on Monday morning. The protest outside the House was followed by a march to the finance ministry.
“The finance minister who received the note by the protesters has instructed the personnel department to re-submit a report on the matter,” said the budget manager of the finance ministry Stavros Michael in response.
The issue was also debated at the House finance committee during the discussion of the ministry of agriculture’s budget, with Agriculture Minister Nicos Kouyialis indicating that these positions had been abolished by the ministry of finance without previous consultation with the ministry of agriculture. He said he did not know on what basis these positions were abolished and questioned whether a study had been carried out by finance ministry.
AKEL MP Yiannakis Gabriel spoke of a lack of communication between the ministries and government departments.
“The minister of finance decided, the minister of agriculture didn’t know, the director of the forestry department says it is necessary to keep these positions. We leave the commenting to you, “he said.
The AKEL MP Adamos Adamou, who is also chairman of the House environment committee, stressed the seriousness of the issue.
“You know how many warnings we issue to the public every summer because we all fear that we might burn our forests,” he said. “Instead of increasing forest employees who are most important in the early detection of a fire, we weaken this department. It’s an unacceptable action, and at the end of the day I hope that the ministry of finance will have second thoughts.”
Axing so many forest officials whom he described as “the guardians of our forests” was strange and dangerous he said.