PAPHOS lifeguards held a peaceful protest over conditions outside Paphos district office on Thursday morning before meeting with the Paphos District Officer for negotiations.
The lifeguards were protesting over staff shortages, a lack of equipment and long overdue upgrades to lifeguard towers.
Mary Lambrou, Paphos District Officer, told the Cyprus Mail that a total of ten new lifeguards are being employed in Paphos this year, a big improvement on last year’s staff numbers, which stood at thirty-six.
She said the result was due to pressure from the lifeguards’ association and persistence on the part of the district administration.
“From the beginning of July, there will be seven more lifeguards being employed in Paphos, there are currently thirty nine and that will rise to forty six.”
She said that three extra staff had already been given the green light at the start of the season, bringing the total number of new lifeguards to ten.
Lambrou added that there are thirty areas designated as swimming areas over the entire Paphos district and that some areas, such as Mandria village, show little interest in employing lifeguards as their salaries are paid 50% by the local authorities and 50% by the government.
“These areas might not have large numbers of tourists, for example,” she said.
However, she stressed that all of the designated areas have at least one lifeguard on duty, whilst most have two. Where one lifeguard only is on duty, they work every day from 10am to 5.30pm without a day off.
“If they need a day off, a lifeguard is brought from another area where there are two,” she said.
Mathaios Mathaiou, president of the Paphos Lifeguards’ Association said the meeting was a productive one and that the authorities had listened to their complaints and assured them they would be taken considered.
“We need to ensure the safety of swimmers in Paphos and although this is a good start, more needs to be done,” he said.
Mathaiou said that along with more staff, three of four defibrillator machines are needed, and that lifeguard towers, especially those in the municipality of Paphos, need to be upgraded and in some cases replaced. Some don’t provide any shade and access ladders are positioned at the back instead of the front of the tower, giving lifeguards no view of the sea as they enter and exit the structure.
“Some are also too small, there is nowhere for us to put our stuff, and they need to meet the standards that are set,” he said.
He added that Paphos MPs Andreas Facontis and Charalambos Pittokopitis, had also supported and attended the meeting.
“Mr. Facontis said that he supported our request to have lifeguards working for eleven months of the year,” he said.
Lambrou said the district office is scheduling a meeting, possibly on Monday, with all of the municipalities in attendance, to see what help can be given to improve the lifeguard towers.
“We will see if we are able to secure more staff next year,” she said.