Cyprus Mail

Larnaca bus drivers extend strike over pay (Updated)

Around 100 drivers at Larnaca’s bus company Zenon went on a 24 hour strike on Monday in protest over their payment agreements.

As the day proceeded, unions decided to extend the strike, which started at 5am, for a further 48 hours set to end at 5am on Thursday.

Last week, during a general meeting the drivers decided to go through with the strike after Zenon apparently refused to bring their paycheques back to previous pay levels.

Unions say drivers had previously agreed to a reduction in their salaries as an act of good will in the face of Zenon’s financial problems, but that agreement ended in December 2015 and now drivers want their salaries returned to previous levels.

To ensure students could still get to school, the transport ministry took over all but one of the 69 student routes usually run by Zenon.

The only one not covered was that of Krioneri station to Larnaca.

The ministry called on Zenon to do their part in restoring smooth operations for the good of the public and said any differences between employees and employers should not be solved in a way that causes problems to the public.

Employees criticised the company saying while they accepted cuts in their salary, shareholders had increased their own pay by up to €1500.

Nadia Kyritsi, general secretary for PEO union driver branch, said the company had proceeded to threaten some of the drivers and as a result, some of them had not participated in the strike.

SEK rep Nicos Koliandris added they had not yet received any response from the company, leaving with them with no other choice but to “continue our fight in claiming salaries and benefits”.

“We are aware (drivers) have received some form of pressure and threats on behalf of the company. It is not important in what form the threats were made but the fact that it happened,” he said.

“Employees were really frightened but after the talk we had with them, they realised the benefit of everyone staying united.”

On Wednesday, another general meeting is set to take place to decide on any possible further measures in case there are no developments.

Constantinos Karakontis, of DEOK’s union said “our aim is not to strike but unfortunately this is our weapon. We want to solve the strike in any way as long as the agreement implements the collective agreement” or in other words, returns the drivers’ salaries to previous levels.

Asked whether the labour ministry would be asked to intervene, Karakontis said they requested it but it had not yielded any results.

“That’s exactly why we decided to proceed with a 48 hour strike.”

In a statement later on Monday, Zenon said the agreement signed in September 2014 with employees, reduced salaries by about five per cent, but added it was impossible to reinstate the wages at the present time.

Apologising to the public, it said it would do everything it could to resolve the problem and put an end to the strike measures.

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