Cyprus Mail
OpinionTales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: The return of the union dictatorship

Finance Minister Harris Georgiades failing to persuade DIKO leader Nicolas Papadopoulos of the virtues of CyTA's privatisation

UNIONS have been back in force over the last couple of weeks reminding us all that the three year adjustment programme, during which they kept a relatively low profile, was just a brief break and that the dictatorship of the fascistic union bosses will be re-imposed.

They could not have chosen a better time to make their point. With parliamentary elections less than three months away, there is no way any party will challenge their bullying and blackmail. Here I have to praise DISY chief Averof, who has been railing against union lunacy and disproving our scientific theory that all Paphites are uncivilised cavemen.

Our establishment’s other scientific theory – that 90 per cent of Cypriots are Akelites in their mentality, thinking and actions, without realising it – however, has been confirmed. This is the percentage that not only approves of union rule, but believes it is an essential part of a functioning democracy even if it eventually leads to bankruptcy.

The ideas of a big state, offering fat salaries and pensions to as many people as possible, of unions having a say in all government decisions, of every union demand being satisfied, of lazy unproductive workers having the right to promotion, of voluntary retirement (instead of redundancy) are all from the AKEL manual of economic mismanagement.

OBNOXIOUS CyTA union bosses, applauded by the Akelites from all parties, on Monday lashed out against the government, after Finance Minister Harris presented the CyTA privatisation bills to the House finance committee. Even the government behaved like members of AKEL offering a range of employment choices to the employees in the vain hope of securing their approval for privatisation.

All parties, except DISY, will do as the unions have demanded and reject the privatisation bills. Harris pointed out that labour costs were 30 per cent of CyTA’s total operating costs compared to the average of 18 per cent for similar companies in other countries. So why would workers want to leave the authority that covers them in gold for their entire working life? It has to stay in state hands so that they can carry on plundering it.

There is another option which the government has not explored. It could sell CyTA to its workers, whose union pension funds have assets worth hundreds of millions of euros. The workers can manage it, modernise it, make it more flexible and take the profits. They can also take the losses, instead of enjoying all the benefits of ownership, while leaving the business risks to the state.

And of course worker ownership would bring us closer to the establishment of a communist paradise.

ON THE SAME day bosses of the nursing union Pasyno were given the opportunity to have a slanging match with the Health Minister Giorgos Pamborides outside his ministry, where striking hospital nurses had gathered to push the demand for higher entry level wages.

The higher entry wage is being demanded because nurses now get their training at TEPAK which is a university and gives its graduates degrees, instead of diplomas like the nurse training college. As degree holders, nurses want to start work at state hospitals on degree-holders salary, even though they would be doing the exact same work.

The state is being asked to hire them at almost double the salary, at an extra cost to the taxpayer of €30 million a year according to Averof to do what a diploma-holder did as well, if not better, for half the money. Pasyno is also demanding a ‘hazardous’ work allowance, as if nurses were working in the mines or in an explosives factory. You’d think now that nurses have university degrees they would be sensible but this is Kyproulla.

ONLY IN our union-run, basket-case country would the state pay a wage based on the qualifications of an employee instead of the work he does. Yet it is the policy of the public sector to hire a person with a degree at a higher salary, thus rewarding his qualifications rather than his work.

For 90 per cent of the work done in the public service – filling forms, shuffling documents, drinking coffee and speaking rudely to members of the public – a degree in any subject is completely unnecessary. Would a philosophy graduate do a better job of processing applications for farm subsidies or checking forms for student grants than a school-leaver?

HEAD HONCHOS at the Bank of Cyprus are in a bit of quandary over how to lay off staff. It might not be a state-controlled bank, but the union has been calling the shots there for decades and does not seem like surrendering power any time soon.

Being under union control, it could not possibly lay off workers that are surplus to requirements as companies routinely do all over the world, even though it recorded a loss in excess of €400 million last year. The B of C has therefore introduced an early retirement scheme in the hope that some 300 grossly overpaid employees will sign up for it, because in Kyproulla staff redundancies have to be voluntary.

The company does not even have the right to get rid of the unproductive, waste of space employees, by giving them big compensation packages, if they do not volunteer.

The problem facing management now is that only about 30 have volunteered for the scheme, as they are not threatened by redundancy. CEO John Hourican, once considered a tough cookie, has obviously gone native. As for Yank main shareholder Wilbur Ross, he must feel this is the Soviet Union. Would he have invested a few hundred million bucks in the bank if he had known the unions would be calling the shots?

TEENAGERS showed that their state education in union militancy is also going very well. On Thursday, tomorrow’s militants, walked out of school classes in order to protest against education ministry plans to introduce exams twice a year.

The kids, who have a joke union called Psem, object to this and as one of their leaders said on a radio show the method of exams must be changed to become “more humanist” because schools should not be turned into “exam centres”.

Students, he said must come to “a more human space”, from which, presumably, inhuman exams must be banned.

This is what happens when you give a say on how the education system should be run to 15- and 16-year-olds. I blame the super-wimp Education Minister Costas Kadis who had invited the kids to his office to discuss the exam proposal with them. He felt betrayed that they were taking action after he had briefed them, and on Thursday blamed AKEL for instigating the walk-out.

I am certain AKEL is behind the kids, but what kind of moron consults a bunch of teenagers about how to run education and boasts about it as well? It gets worse. The head of the parents’ association confederation complained on radio on Thursday because the kids of Psem, “accept too easily what is discussed with the minister”.
The parents’ union wants more militant teenagers if we are to upgrade our education system and do away with inhuman exams.

PREZ NIK is fast turning into a jet-setting natural gas salesman. On Monday he was peddling his vision of supplying all of Europe with natural gas we have not found yet to his Bulgarian counterpart Rosen Plevneviev. This is why he is also offering to sell Israeli and Egyptian gas.

It must have been a good sales pitch because after their meeting Plevenviev said Bulgaria could act as a corridor between northern and southern Europe securing the interests of Poland and Croatia and building a regional distribution centre for energy sources.

The grand plans were confirmed by our Energy Minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, who declared that “Bulgaria has a special role in our attempt to establish a new natural gas corridor from the eastern Mediterranean to Europe, either through existing or planned infrastructure.”

And we thought our gas would only be going as far as Greece. The pipeline that will supply all of Europe with our gas, via distribution centres in Greece and Bulgaria, could be named the Nikstream.

YOU HAD to feel sorry for Foreign Minister Ioannis Kasoulides, who became the target of all the bash-patriotic columnists for the neutral stance he took over Mother Russia’s verbal attack on Turkey and President Erdogan.

In Russia’s cheerleader, Phil, two columnists had a go at him, one saying his neutrality “was provocative and insulting for Russia”. The other wrote the government “does not want Russia to support us, preferring being in the hands of the Anglo-Americans, who make a habit of tripping us over and then we call the Russian to help.”

Simerini’s hysterical columnist Costakis Antoniou asked whether Kasoulides was acting as the “press spokesman of the sultan”.

MILITARY service will be reduced by 10 months for all new recruits the government announced on Thursday morning taking everyone by surprise, especially the patriotic parties which could not risk opposing the move for fear of losing votes. The decision is a super vote-winner, but only DISY will benefit from it in May’s parliamentary elections.

The vote-winning does not end there. The government plans to hire 3,000 soldiers on contracts to cover the needs of the National Guard at an annual cost of about €35 million. But will it find 3,000 male Greek Cypriots willing to join the army as privates? Probably not, which was why Defence Minister Christoforos Fokaides said the posts would also be advertised in Greece.

There is a big risk in this plan. Once 3,000 are hired, they will become unionised, demand more money, a hazardous work allowance and refuse to leave when their contracts expire.

THE FUNERAL of Solon Triantafyllides, the former chairman of the Bank of Cyprus and its driving force during the golden years, attracted all the great and the good of the capital. Solon, who passed away at the age of 84 last weekend, had been chairman of the bank from 1988 to 2005, overseeing the expansion in Greece, the arrival of Russian money and years of high profitability.

He committed one big error. On leaving the bank, he made Andreas Eliades CEO. The megalomaniac Eliades led the bank to its eventual collapse and the wiping out of all its shareholders, the old money of Nicosia. Many of these former shareholders, now known as the nouveau pauvre, were at the funeral to bid a final farewell to Solon.

Eliades was not there to pay his respects to his benefactor, the man who had believed in him and gave him the opportunity to destroy Kyproulla’s biggest and wealthiest business. He was probably afraid to make an appearance, as the nouveau pauvre, despite their good breeding, could easily have turned into a lynch mob on seeing his face.

IS THERE any good reason why the taxpayer is subsidising small television stations? Four such stations, Plus, Extra, Capital and Mad are each receiving 90 grand from the government. The money goes towards covering the 50 per cent of the €180,000 annual fee they each have to pay the Velister television platform.

Not satisfied with just this, the owner of Mad TV, who is also the owner of Kathimerini newspaper, has been pressuring the government to exempt his station from paying the annual fee of €51,400 to the Radio Television Authority. He wants the new broadcasting law being drafted to exempt Mad TV, which just re-broadcasts music videos of the similarly named Greek station, from paying a licence fee.

The owner has not had his way yet, but it would be no surprise if he does. The taxpayer could be lumbered with 140 grand bill just so someone can play the TV big-shot. And he does not even belong to a union. What is our world coming to?

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