Cyprus Mail

CyTA unions plan more strikes to oppose change

Cyta staff staged endless strikes to protect their privileges and wages

By Elias Hazou

TRADE unions affiliated to the state telecoms company are gearing up for strike action in a bid to thwart government plans to privatise CyTA.

According to an announcement by the EPOET OIO-SEK union, following a secret ballot, 94 per cent of members authorised their leadership to organise strikes, as and when they see fit.

The union said that with the help of other syndicates it will “do its utmost to prevent the denationalisation, shares-issue or privatisation of CyTA and at the same time secure the constitutional, labour and pension rights of workers.

“We shall keep you updated on the course of events, which are expected to intensify over the coming days,” the statement added.

Trade unions are opposed to government legislation designed to privatise the company.

A stepping stone to the eventual privatisation of CyTA, the bill transforms the company from a public-law organisation to an entity governed by private law. It provides for the creation of a company belonging to the state initially with the aim of attracting a strategic investor at a later stage.

The state will retain a substantial share in the company. How much has yet to be decided.

The bill aims to preserve salaries, job security, advancement prospects and the collective workers’ agreement, while new legislation also defines powers of the state to intervene in the company for national security reasons.

At any rate, as it stands the government lacks the numbers to push the bill through the House. Ruling DISY is the only party which supports the legislation.

Legislation privatising CyTA is a ‘prior action’ under the bailout deal between Cyprus and its international creditors.

Until it is passed, the lenders will not close the latest review of the island’s bailout programme, thus also withholding the final aid tranche of some €400m.

The government has already missed the January 14 deadline – the next scheduled meeting of the Eurogroup, to which Cyprus’ lenders report.

Following the holiday break, the House plenum next convenes on January 14, but a vote on the CyTA bill then is out of the question. That’s because the House finance committee has not even begun looking at it. It will do so next week.

The government submitted the bill to parliament in mid-December.

Finance minister Harris Georgiades has repeatedly urged lawmakers to pass the legislation.

Although losing the last bailout tranche would not spell disaster for the economy, he said, at the same time Cyprus would be missing out on a low-interest loan and in addition it would be found to not be in compliance with its economic adjustment programme, which in turn would hurt the island’s creditworthiness with international rating agencies.

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