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Larnaca bus strike has gone too far, minister says

File photo: Buses from the Zenon bus company

The strike at the Zenon bus company in Larnaca has gone too far, Transport Minister Marios Demetriades said on Sunday.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event in Pano Arodes, Demetriades said those on strike needed to take into account “current economic realities” and show some respect for the efforts to keep economic recovery on track.

The striking drivers said on Friday they would bring their week-long protest to Nicosia on Monday in order to pressure three government ministers, and parliament into vindicating them.

The bus drivers went on strike on Monday, initially for 24 hours, over wage reductions agreed to in 2014, which they claim should be restored upon expiry of the deal at the end of 2015.

Soon, the strike was extended to 48 hours, and by Wednesday it had become “indefinite”, after transport ministry permanent undersecretary Alecos Michaelides met with union and employer reps in a failed bid to bridge disagreements.

Unions blamed the falling through of the talks on Wednesday on Demetriades, who, they claimed, killed a proposed negotiated agreement on the spot
Demetriades said on Sunday that the Zenon company was subsidised 90-92 per cent by the state, and added that while forecasts put earnings at stable for 2016, there was no sign that business would be up, indicating that the strikers’ demands were not justified by economic realities.

Many workers islandwide, he said, continue to work for lower wages due to the economic crisis. If a small minority began receiving increases it would create issues of inequality, particularly in organisations that operate at a cost to the taxpayer.

“We can’t resolve disputes through blackmail, but through dialogue,” he said.

He called on the company and its employees to think of the common good, and the public who have been without transport for a week.

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