PAPHOS lifeguards will gather outside Paphos district office on Thursday morning in protest over staff shortages, despite an announcement by the interior ministry Wednesday that additional lifeguards would finally be employed.
Mathaios Mathaiou, president of the Paphos lifeguards’ association told the Cyprus Mail that the move doesn’t go far enough to ensure the safety of swimmers in Paphos and that numerous promises have been made, including one on new staff more than a month ago.
“I will believe it when I see it,” he said of the move. “And anyway one or two new lifeguards will not cover our basic needs. We also need new equipment and watch towers to be upgraded,” he said.
The additional lifeguards had been promised by the government for the summer season.
Mathaiou said that the Paphos protest is supported by lifeguards in Limassol, Larnaca and Ammochostos, who will also strike in two weeks if the needs of Paphos are not met.
“We actually need to have 96 lifeguards in Paphos to operate smoothly and correctly and we currently have 39. However, the minimum we would operate with is 72, so we would need 33 more,” he said.
Head of the Paphos beaches committee, Nicos Similides, said that the lifeguards proposed action has his full support.
“The government said that they would give us the staff, but nothing has happened and we are almost in July. The lifeguards work very hard and long hours, and even with the new lifeguards, this will not give extra staff, but simply meet some of the criteria for what we need.”
He explained that beaches where jet skis are used by lifeguards, there must be at least two guards on duty and that the rest of the beaches must have a minimum of one to look after the swimmers properly.
He noted that at present in Paphos, with the exception of Ta Bania, which has a lifeguard working longer hours all year round, lifeguards work from 10am- 6pm. He said that both the hours and the months of work need to be extended.
“We are a tourist area and our beaches should be ‘open’ and operational for most of the year. They must ‘open’ for a minimum period, starting on March 1 and ‘closing’ in December.”
He said this would leave only two months instead of six, where the lifeguards aren’t working and would enable them to take their holidays as they will be working for ten months straight.
At present he said that staff only worked for six months of the year and are mostly unemployed as lifeguards for the rest. He said that the job is a tough and difficult one, as they work under the sun in very high temperatures especially during the summer, and for long hours without a break, six days a week.
“The government must do something now, as they gave an option to the municipality to employ enough staff for the season,” he said.
The Paphos district officer, Mary Lambrou, told CNA that the planned protest was ‘somewhat inappropriate’ as they are working to increase the working hours and staff.