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Unions call for more strikes in north until clock is changed back

A previous demonstration in the north

THE confederation of unions in the breakaway regime in the north announced on Friday daily afternoon protests in front of the ‘prime minister’s’ office and full-day strikes on ‘cabinet’ meeting days demanding resignations of ministers and setting the clock back to winter time.

The unions initially staged a general strike on Thursday when thousands of people gathered outside the office of ‘prime minister’ Huseyin Ozgurgun, to protest Tuesday’s death of two teenage girls when their school bus crashed into a lorry. They blamed the accident in the decision not to change the time in unison with the rest of Europe and the darkness that prevailed early in the morning.

Following a decision taken on Friday morning, the platform of unions called for the resignation of the labour, education, and transport ministers and for the clock being set back to winter time.

They said they would stage a protest outside Ozgurgun’s office every evening between 4pm and 7pm, and go on full-day strikes on cabinet meeting days. The unions pledged to continue mobilisations until their goal has been achieved.

The mass mobilisation was triggered by the outrage caused when three people were killed on Tuesday when a school bus carrying students crashed into a truck near Pentadaktylos. The victims were two teenage girls and the bus driver, while another pupil, 15, is in critical condition. Five other teenagers were also injured, as well as the 53-year-old wife of the driver, who is in the intensive care unit.

The head of the union of Turkish Cypriot high-school teachers Tahir Gokcebel had said on Thursday that the labour minister must resign because the bus driver did not have a work permit, the education minister because the bus driver was driving without insurance, and the transport minister because he is generally responsible for road safety.

He also invited union members, the general public, pupils and their parents, to the mass mobilisations.

On Thursday, around 2,000 people – including 500 pupils – assembled outside Ozgurgun’s office shouting slogans like “murdering government you will be held accountable” and “murdering state” and called on the official to sell his Mercedes and use the money to build better roads.

Students had also taken to the streets on Wednesday calling on the Turkish Cypriot administration to resign, holding it responsible for the deaths.

They blamed the crash on the poor state of the roads and the fact that the north was still on summer time, like Turkey. Students said they are now forced to go to school while it’s still dark, a decision they had no say in.

The administration’s decision not to switch back from daylight saving time last month meant that at 7am, when the students were travelling to school, the sun had not yet risen.

The teachers’ union, Ktos, said that as of Friday it will be holding a one-hour strike every day between 8am and 9am (7 and 8 Republic time) until the administration turned the clocks back an hour.

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