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Bus strike called off after wage deal reached (updated)

Larnaca bus drivers ended their strike on Monday following the mediation of the labour minister in the afternoon.

The deal that was struck entails returning part of the income that was cut a couple of years ago.

The proposal provides for workers who make up to €1,400 to receive a 2.2 per cent increase; those on a salary between €1,401 and €1,600 will get 1.8 per cent. No change for those making between €1,601 and €2,200, while those on a €2,201 plus salary will see their salaries cut by 2 per cent to cover the increases of the rest.

“Essentially the proposal provides further concessions from highly paid workers to cover the money returned to low paid workers,” union rep Athos Eleftheriou said.

Drivers at a second bus company, Limassol’s EMEL, also called off a strike they had planned for Tuesday.

EMEL drivers said they had been assured by Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou that discussions would start to resolve their problem.

Drivers decided to strike after the management refused to reinstate the collective agreement after the pay cuts agreed for 2014 and 2015.

Earlier, Larnaca drivers, who have been striking since last Monday over their demands to restore their wages and benefits, moved their protest from Larnaca to Nicosia in a bid to step up the pressure on government.

Approximately 120 drivers gathered outside parliament to protest.

After meeting with Transport Minister Marios Demetriades and Emilianidou, union reps were told that the labour minister was willing to discuss the issue with them at a meeting later yesterday.

According to the bus drivers, the labour dispute came up after “the company refused to implement the deal signed on September 19, 2014, proposed by the Labour Relations department”.

Due to the dispute, the bus drivers’ unions contacted the Labour Relations department last month, requesting an interpretation of the 2014 deal.

They were told that, based on the agreement, the concessions made are permanent, with the exception of wage reductions that need to be restored as of January 2016.

The employees’ side has accepted this interpretation, but Zenon, the company, refused to restore the wages.

“During a meeting at the Labour Relations department, the mediator realised that the company’s refusal was not conducive to resolving the dispute and declared an impasse,” the unions said.

“Left with no other options, and implementing the clauses of the Industrial Relations Code, the employees took strike measures, demanding implementation of the deal.”

On Sunday, Demetriades branded the strike action “blackmail” and called on the bus drivers to realise the economic realities, which, he said, could not justify meeting their demands.

At a House labour committee session on Monday, both sides insisted on their views, with Demetriades citing the opinion of the legal service, according to which the dispute is between the bus company and the drivers.

 

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