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Cyprus

Laid-off OSEL employees sign up for unemployment amid media spotlight

Photo: Christos Theodorides

By Evie Andreou

Holding placards saying “We are the victims of Iordanis Iordanous”, and “Where is the state?” nine men and women laid off last week by the Nicosia public company OSEL, made their way on Wednesday to sign up for unemployment benefits.

Standing outside the Nicosia district unemployment office, the newly laid off said they were vindictively fired by the head of OSEL Iordanis Iordanous and expressed their discontent over the “immediate and unconventional way” they were dismissed.

“We were dismissed vindictively by the head of the OSEL board, Iordanous, without warning and we were kicked out of our work place and left on to the street,” Charoulla Kittou, one of the protesting former OSEL employees, told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA).

She also said that not even their unions stepped in to help them.

“Where are the state and the labour ministry? … Nobody showed any interested in us. Who is protecting employees in Cyprus today?” Kittou said.

She added that they were informed that more layoffs were to take place “so Iordanous’ vindictive mood continues”. Their “plank of salvation”, she said, is the unemployment benefit.

The group of nine is among 12 reported to have been fired by Iordanous last week, and who OSEL shareholder Tasos Michaelides, currently at odds with the company claimed were fired out of vengeance because they are relatives and co-villagers of his.

The layoffs led to a violent incident on Friday when a group of the dismissed employees, accompanied by Michaelides, walked into the company’s headquarters to take their personal belongings. The incident culminated with the injury of Iordanous, who was reportedly hit with a fire extinguisher, and two company employees. Six suspects aged between 19 and 55 alleged by OSEL to be responsible for the attacks are to appear before court next month to answer to charges.

But police are also investigating claims made by Michaelides and the laid-off employees that they were attacked first.

Kittou told the CNA that when she attempted to enter the OSEL offices on Friday to arrange her personal belongings, she was attacked by company officials “who earn high salaries, and by the head of the board himself”. “Some of us received medical treatment later”.

Michaelides blamed the company’s management earlier in the month for cooking the books, and refused to run his buses until the government acted on his claims. His move let some 42 villages of the Nicosia district without public transportation for about a week. There is a court case pending between him and the company.

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