Cyprus Mail

New Cyta redundancy plan watered down to suit staff

Cyta staff staged endless strikes to protect their privileges and wages

By Andria Kades

A BILL expected to head to the Cabinet on Monday over redundancy plans for Cyprus Telecommunication Authority (Cyta) employees, seems to fully pander to trade union requests, it emerged on Friday.

According to Cyprus News Agency (CNA) sources, provisions in the bill have safeguarded employees’ rights more than what had initially been proposed in the cabinet’s August 2014 bill for Cyta’s privatisation.

The privatisation outlines a private telecoms company is to be created, with all the shares initially held by the state, who will seek investors. The new company will exist in parallel to the ‘old’ Cyta.

Approval of the bill is necessary for the disbursement of the next tranche in financial assistance from the troika of international lenders.

Employees have been demanding they remain permanent staff of the new private Cyta and the investor should be barred from the right to transfer them out to the state-owned Cyta.

The new draft bill suggests that employees opting to work in the private Cyta on unpaid leave, can do so under their current status, meaning they will continue to receive the same salary and benefits at present.

Additionally, should the investor choose to return employees on unpaid leave to the state Cyta, it will need to be done following laws on termination of employment, meaning staff will receive redundancy.

Initially, the bill provided the investor could, after 24 months and transferring the shares, return any employees not needed to the state Cyta. Thus, those who will return to the old Cyta will receive compensation or work in another public service.

Specifically, employees have four options. Working in the private Cyta with a contract, stripped of public servant status but receiving company shares or continuing to work as a public servant at the private Cyta without paid leave.

The third option includes voluntary redundancy, while the fourth includes being absorbed in another public run service.

CNA’s sources said employees working for the private Cyta with unpaid leave will have their pension funds paid for by the state which will also cover the difference between the investors contribution to the fund.

Additionally, any of Cyta’s assets not directly related to communication works will not be part of the sale to ensure the public interest – that is, ensuring they are not sold for lower prices than their actual value.

The call for tender may allow potential investors to buy the private Cyta which will also include Cyta Hellas or have Cyta Hellas sold separately, to maximise the value of the subsidiary company.

The bill outlines a one year transitional period after private Cyta is sold giving employees adequate time to weigh their options. Provided parliament approves the bill in January, the transitional period is set to conclude by the end of 2017.

The privatisation procedure is expected to require seven to nine months to finalise.

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