PEO, the AKEL-affiliated union, said that its Cyprus Ports Authority workers in Limassol would continue their strike and may re-evaluate the situation on Thursday after parliament debates the legislation for the commercialisation of the port’s operations.
“There was no agreement and therefore we have nothing in our hands to offer our members,” Glafkos Constantinou, an official of PEO said in a telephone interview on Tuesday, shortly after he and other union representatives met with Transport Minister Marios Demetriades. “We are in a deadlock. With the exception of SEK, all other unions saw no reason to call off the measures”.
Constantinou said that unions agreed to exempt ships carrying perishable cargo, cruise ships and war ships from their strike. Demetris Patsalos, chairman of the independent union of Cyprus Ports Authority workers, revealed in a telephone interview that the rift among unions was much more extensive than that described by Constantinou.
“I believe it is wrong to go ahead with the strike but when panic seizes someone, it is hard to cast it off,” Patsalos said.
On Monday, Constantinou justified the strike action with the uncertainty related to their status after the completion of the commercialisation of the port’s operations. He also cited the agreed revenue sharing agreement with the consortium led by Dubai Ports which will take over the marine services as a further reason for the strike as it was deemed “too low”. Dubai Ports, which also leads a consortium that won the tender for the handling of general cargo, agreed to offer the government 10.1 per cent of its revenue from marine services.
A third consortium led by Germany’s EuroGate won the competition for the container station.
The government negotiated with porter companies and their workers, compensation schemes worth almost €30m and offered workers at the Limassol port, employed by the Cyprus Ports Authority the option to either retire early, work for the private companies which will take over the port’s operations or continue working for the government elsewhere. Demetriades said in an interview with state-radio CyBC earlier today that “the worst thing that could happen to a worker at the ports authority is to become a civil servant”.
A transport ministry spokesman said that the minister told the unions that their demands were unrealistic. “It is impossible to expect that all pending issues will be settled automatically now,” the spokesman said, adding that the successful bidders will need up to ten months to take their final decision over their respective organisational structures.
“The ball is now on their field,” the ministry spokesman said.
Patsalos, the chairman of the independent union representing pilots, mechanics, dockers and sailors, said that the minister rejected a proposal to delay the debate at the parliament for a at least week and give so time to unions to brief their members. “We hope that people will want to go back to work tomorrow,” Patsalos said.