Cyprus Mail

Escalating row over EAC general manager

A fresh row is brewing at the state power company over the hiring or not of a new general manager, a position that has been vacated for over a year.
The board of the Electricity Authority of Cyprus (EAC) appointed Antonis Patsalis as acting general manager in March 2015. Since then, the government has not initiated procedures to appoint a general manager proper.
In a letter addressed to Patsalis dated April 14, the four main EAC unions asked that he immediately set in motion procedures to fill the position of general manager, per their understanding of a March 30 meeting held at the presidential palace.
Although at first glance the matter may appear trivial, it ties into a tug of war between the EAC unions and the government over the future of the state power company.
The four main EAC unions argue that during the March 30 meeting with the EAC board, President Nicos Anastasiades instructed that the informal position of acting general manager be extended for the time being, but also that down the line the board must move to hire a general manager proper.
The unions say the EAC administration has acted on the first part of the president’s instructions, but ignored the latter part.
A crucial outcome of the March 30 meeting was nixing a proposal for the legal unbundling of the EAC into two entities – a distribution monopoly and a power-production entity competing in the liberalised electricity market.
The development represented a victory for the unions, who were dreading the legal separation of the EAC as a stepping stone to privatisation.
Since then, the administration has said that any moves toward privatisation will be frozen until late 2017.
The EAC meanwhile is implementing an operational and accounting separation as part of a reform drive.
In the midst of this, last week the House finance committee approved a request put in by the finance ministry for an ad hoc exemption for the EAC from a law freezing new hiring and promotions in the broader public sector.
That meant the EAC had the go-ahead to proceed with hiring 13 new senior managers. However, these 13 slots did not include the positions of general manager or of chief financial officer – which served to rekindle union suspicions that the government is out to emasculate the EAC.
The misgivings stem from the fact the energy ministry is envisioning a vastly different management structure for the EAC.
It’s understood that the ministry feels there is no need for a general manager at the EAC. Instead, it argues that two new positions – that of executive manager for the distribution network, and of a production and supply manager – are sufficient.
Speaking to the Cyprus Mail last month, Andreas Panorkos, head of the EPOPAI trade union, contended that the government intends to “dismantle and weaken” the EAC. One way of accomplishing that, he had said, would be by eventually abolishing key positions, such as that of general manager.

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