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Our View: Port strike as much about politics as it is about money

AS PARLIAMENTARY elections approach, public sector unions are becoming more disruptive, in the knowledge that, regardless of how arrogantly they behave, the support of our vote-seeking political parties is guaranteed. No party in Cyprus would dare take a stand against union blackmail and intimidation tactics just two months before elections. Union bosses can be as unreasonable as they like, because the parties will be offering them their unwavering support.

On Monday a union representing Cyprus Ports Authority (CPA) workers called a strike that closed down Limassol port, on the grounds that a bill prepared by the government for the change of status of the Authority did not safeguard the rights of workers. This has been described as a strategic strike, aimed at taking the pressure off the port pilots who went on strike last week on the grounds that the money the private operator taking over their services would pay was too little.

The aim of this unjustified strike is to pressure deputies not to approve the government bills handing over the operation of the port to private companies on Thursday. What is strange is that the government has offered the employees the same privileges they had granted CyTA workers: remaining at the authority, voluntary retirement with generous compensation or a job in public service. So how were workers’ rights not being protected? If anything, they were being scandalously over-protected.

As we have written in the past, the government is considered a very soft touch by the Limassol port unions, which ensured the obscenely high compensation package offered to licensed port workers was increased as soon as they threatened to strike. This time, however, the strike might not even be related to money demands and might be politically-motivated given that the union behind the strike is AKEL-controlled PEO. The objective could be to prevent the government from giving the port services to private operators – similar to what is certain to happen at CyTA – even if tenders have been completed and companies chosen.

We would not put anything past unions and political parties, especially now that the troika is out of the way and it is felt the government could rescind its decision about Limassol port. They do not care that the strike could cost tens of millions of euros and provide yet another argument for shipping companies to avoid Limassol port in the future. For parties and unions, the primary role of Limassol port has been to serve the interests of its workers and allow party rusfeti which is why they do not want private operators to come in. A port that offers reliable and efficient services to businesses and generates cash for the state is the last thing they want.

 

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