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Our View: Port pilots’ actions reveal union arrogance in all its glory

Port pilots in Limassol

THE LIMASSOL port pilots may have called off Monday’s strike, but their union leader threatened to close the port indefinitely from next week if the demand to employ Cypriots was not satisfied. In a statement that illustrated union arrogance in all its glory, Demetris Patsalos, the head of the independent union of Cyprus Ports Authority workers, said that if the “ministry attempted to change the nationality clause then the port will be shut once more and will never open again.”

Blackmail could be expressed more bluntly than this – if the government did not obey the union’s diktats it would take action that would cost the economy millions. What is the difference of this behaviour from that of a gangster threatening to set fire to a bar if the owners refused to pay him protection money? There is no room for negotiation, and we have not heard any of the parties talking about the need for consensus in this case. Unless the union has its way, forcing Dubai Ports, which was awarded the contract for the port’s marine services and cargo operations, to hire the Cypriot pilots already doing this job, it would close down the Limassol port.

The union has been citing a 2011 Council of Ministers decision stipulating that pilots employed by the Cyprus Ports Authority must be Cypriots; national security was at stake and other EU countries followed this practice, it was claimed. The union’s concern is not national security but carrying on its protection rackets at the port after the contractor takes over. According to EU directives, the contractor is obliged to hire the workers of the company (in this case the Ports Authority) outsourcing operations. But if this happened the pilots would not be entitled to the hefty compensation the government had scandalously agreed to pay them for leaving their jobs.

The six pilots, backed by their union, want to take the compensation and then be hired by the contractor on the same terms they were employed by the Ports Authority. Ideally, the union wants to set up a company offering piloting services to Dubai Ports, which has no obligation contractual obligation to enter such an agreement. In fact, the Dubai Ports management would be insane to want to have anything to do with any of the employees of the Ports Authority who have been running Limassol port for decades through blackmail and threats. These people have been given very obscenely generous compensation packages by the government in order to leave Limassol port. Now they want to take the money and stay on.

The contractor and its local partner would do well to find four or five Cypriots and give them pilot training. Dubai Port could bring expert pilots from abroad to train the new recruits. And if Patsalos and his union still want to close down the Limassol port the authorities should step in and take control of it. We have had enough of arrogant and greedy union bosses thuggishly calling the shots in this country.

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