Cyprus Mail
Tales from the Coffeeshop

Tales from the Coffeeshop: Uppity unions return to form

If Nik is so keen on a normal state why does he do nothing to normalise the highly dysfunctional one we’ve got?

ANYONE who thought that union rule would be weakened after the 2013 meltdown have been proved triumphantly wrong. The arrogant union bosses are back, dominating the air-waves and imparting their wisdom about how the country should be run.

On Thursday morning, the state broadcaster’s morning radio show discussed the football television rights that had been in the news for several days, after the master of the Kyproulla universe, Odysseas and finance minister Harris (the double ‘r’ is his preference), publicly censured the Cyta board for offering €3m per year to screen the matches of champions Apoel.

It is an absurdly high amount, but Apoel reportedly had a €3.2m offer from a Cyta competitor, which was why the board was considering making a counter-offer; it was for three seasons starting in 2019. Under pressure from Harris and Odysseas, the authority’s board pulled out of the bidding war with Cablenet.

The Trito show wanted to discuss the matter, but nobody from Cyta management or the board was willing to talk so it invited the authority’s three union bosses to express their views. Trito has a policy of seeking the views of union bosses for every issue under the sun, treating them as the wise men of the country that must be heard.

As Cyta is essentially a workers’ co-operative that exists primarily to serve its employees, it was more appropriate for the men that call the shots to comment on company decisions, rather than those who supposedly make executive decisions and forge policy.

 

FOR ONCE, and it hurts our union-bashing establishment to say this, some of the things the union bosses said made sense. Too much money would be wasted on a single side’s matches, when we consider that Cytavision was paying €700,000 per year for the rights of all the Spanish first division matches which boast slightly better players than Apoel’s.

They also mentioned the huge amounts of money being paid out to obscure provincial clubs by Cyta, at the behest of the political parties, which together with the unions act as the telecom company’s co-owners. They also wondered why the fuss was being made now when nothing was said as millions were wasted on sponsorship deals with provincial clubs.

While the wise men of the unions were right to point this out, why did they say nothing during all those years that money was being squandered by Cyta. In one case, it gave 600 grand as sponsorship to a village club that could not even attract 100 fans to its home games. We never heard union bosses protesting about this largesse in the past.

Was it because they had agreed with their co-owners – the parties – that Cyta’s mission was to enable football clubs to live beyond their means? It was squandering its money propping up bankrupt football clubs, even as it claimed that upgrading Kyproulla’s internet connections, which are among the slowest in Europe, was too costly and therefore unviable. For the state telecom company, sponsoring unviable football clubs took priority over the internet.

 

UNION bosses, like concerned majority shareholders, told the show they had demanded a meeting with the chairwoman of the Cyta board to seek explanations about the football negotiations’ cock-up.

Meanwhile, the rep-boss of Akel union Peo, Doros Theodorou, said his union had sent a letter to the board telling it that spending such amounts money on football rights was unjustified. The letter was probably sent after Cyta failed to reach a TV deal with the party’s football club Omonia, for the 2019-2021 period.

The deal was close to €2 million, but it fell through when the bankrupt club demanded a sizeable down-payment which Cyta refused, at which point Peo decided that such over-spending was unjustified. If the Omonia deal had gone through and the down-payment made, such spending would not only have been justified, it would have been a smart business move by Cyta.

 

THE TRUE hero of the show, however was Alecos Tryfonides, a dyed-in-the-wool Diko man, who led the campaign against the privatisation of Cyta. Cyta has been a Dikhead bastion since the day of the late Spy Kyp who gave jobs at the authority to anyone who had a Diko membership card.

A true Diko ideologue, Tryfonides, saw a conspiracy behind the football rights row. The “political and economic establishment”, which the oppressed Dikheads were not part of, failed to privatise Cyta so it was now conspiring to weaken it. The establishment, led by Harris, made the fuss about the football rights thus preventing Cyta from bidding and allowing its main competitor the freedom to close the deal that would give it a big advantage.

This was not all. Tryfonides, upholding his party’s noble tradition for xenophobia, also asked who the owners of Cyta’s competitors were. It was “a company of foreign interests, of Arabic interests”, he revealed. There was plot to take the clubs away from Cyta and take them to a company where the majority of the shares were held by “foreign, Arabic interests,” he repeated.

What self-respecting country under occupation could accept football broadcasting rights for our top teams to be held by a company controlled by Arabs? Tryfonides did not pose this question, so we thought we would.

 

THE SECONDARY teachers’ union Oelmek, meanwhile, was also up in arms because the University of Cyprus found a lawful way to accept students from private schools, without making them sit the pancyprian exams.

As long as these students had secured a place at a university abroad, they could then submit a ‘transfer application’ to UCy. The attorney-general advised that the practice was lawful and it has been put into practice from the new academic year. Oelmek bosses were seething and called a meeting for Thursday, to discuss ways of fighting the decision.

When the university decision to accept students from private schools 18 months ago was ruled unlawful by the AG, the union urged the university to respect the law, which it did. We have not heard similar calls this time round, because our unions respect the law and the opinion of the AG only when it is compatible with their agenda.

Of course, Trito had an Oelmek rep to inform listeners that this was a scandalous decision. We all support free speech, but in what normal state (to echo Prez Nik’s favourite phrase) are teaching unions given a say on the admissions policy of a university? This is union fascism masquerading as democracy and we have a lot of it in Kyproulla.

 

EVERY time a union boss appears on radio or telly arrogantly pontificating about how companies or the country should be run, I would advise the presenter to mention two words – Cyprus Airways. This was a state-owned monopoly, run by the omniscient union bosses and their political patrons. And there was no plot by the political economic establishment nor any foreign, Arabic interests waiting in the wings to take its business.

 

THE ‘NORMAL state’ mentioned above has become Prez Nik’s favourite slogan ever since it was uttered by the UN secretary-general during a speech in Crans Montana. It has become a permanent fixture in all his speeches and is used in two ways. He either says that he wants a settlement to give rise to a normal state or asks the question as to which normal state would have guarantees, foreign troops etc.

He is in dangerous territory here because one could ask which normal state uses the national anthem of another state or which normal state flies the flag of another country by the side of its own flag. In which normal state do deputies pay zero income tax on half their earnings and are paid a state pension at 60, three years earlier than the rest of the population?

I could go on forever, but will not bore you. If Nik is so keen on a normal state why does he do nothing to normalise the highly dysfunctional one we’ve got?

 

APART from writing to the heads of foreign governments to explain that Turkish intransigence was 100 per cent to blame for the collapse of the talks in Switzerland, Nik has implemented this ingenious policy in Kyproulla as well.

He has sent out letters marked ‘Secret’ to his pro-settlement acquaintances that were disappointed with the failure of the talks, explaining to them that he was blameless. Our establishment knows at least five recipients to whom the letter was delivered by a member of the presidential guard.

Apart from a long cover letter, personally signed by the Prez, attached documents support the myth of Nik’s total blamelessness for the collapse. Our establishment has seen the letter and documents as they were delivered to a customer, but we cannot reveal the content as it was marked ‘secret’ by the Prez himself.

I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the Prez is trying a bit too hard to convince people that the failure to reach a deal in Switzerland was entirely the fault of the Turks. Does he really think, after all his emphatically convincing explanations about his desire to have a normal state that there are still Greek Cypriots who do not believe his narrative?

 

OVERSEAS Cypriots were in town last week for their annual extravaganza, the 19th World Conference, during which they inform us about their Cyprob enlightenment campaigns abroad and ask for money to make these campaigns even more effective.

This has been happening for decades, but despite the enlightenment they zealously undertake in their countries of residence the results are decidedly unspectacular. They have still not managed to change the policies of the US and UK governments on the Cyprob.

The issue of money was discussed again this week, the president of Pomak (World Federation of Overseas Cypriots), Andreas Papaevripides telling the conference that an enlightenment fund should be set up with contributions from rich businessmen. He did not say whether overseas Cypriot rich businessmen would contribute.

 

THE RICH overseas Cypriots that come to the conference are always demanding money for enlightenment from the Cypriot taxpayer, usually complaining that what they are given is not enough. One of the most consistent moaners is Cypriot Yank, Philip Christopher, the president of Pseka (International Co-ordinating Committee Justice for Cyprus).

He said on Thursday that enlightenment was the only weapon we have, but unfortunately the budgets he saw today were only enough for memorial services. He did not notice that the state was in an assistance programme and could not squander money so that Christopher and others like him can play the enlightenment big-shots in Washington. The truth is that even when funds were available Christopher and his associates did not use the only weapons we have very effectively if the results of their efforts are anything to go by.

 

THE CONFERENCE also issued a very enlightening invitation to Turkish Cypriots to join the efforts to end the Turkish occupation of Kyproulla.

Turkish Cypriots, including those living abroad, were urged by the conference “to work and join forces to lift the Turkish occupation and reunify our homeland.”

The statement added: “We reminisce older times and the good relationship between the two communities, in conditions of freedom, democracy, and mutual respect, and we look forward to the moment of reunification.”

If this is the kind of enlightenment overseas Cypriots carry out we can feel assured that our money is being put to good use.


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