By Evie Andreou
The transport ministry said on Wednesday it bore no responsibility for the non-payment of salaries for staff at the Paphos bus company Osypa, who went on a two-hour strike over the government’s decision to withhold the state’s subsidy to the company to compensate for mutually-acknowledged earlier overpayments.
Employees of Osypa on Wednesday went on a two-hour warning strike to protest for non-payment of their October wages, which the company has blamed on lack of liquidity due to the government’s decision to deduct that money in the winter time rather than in the summer period when business picks up and increased proceeds allow for this deduction.
The company’s 105 buses remained parked from 12:30pm to 2:30pm as drivers, mechanics and administrative staff protested. The strike mostly affected pupils using public transport to get home from school. Schools informed parents of the strike to make other arrangements for their children’s transfer home after class.
The transport ministry said on Wednesday that it bears no responsibility for the non-payment of Osypa’s staff wages, as “it has fulfilled its obligations to the company, resulting from the existing legislation and the contract (with Osypa)”.
The state had paid for 2017 and up to-date to the company the amount due for the service it offers, the ministry said. The company agreed to the cuts made, it said, after it emerged through audit of its financial statements that overpayments had been made by the state in previous years. The transport ministry said that it had proposed to Osypa the appointment of an independent expert to help resolve these problems, and is waiting for the company’s response.
“Therefore, the company’s claim of non-payment of its drivers’ salaries due to lack of liquidity, does not correspond to reality,” the ministry said.
It also reassured the public that it is making every possible effort for the smooth operation of public transportation and apologised for the inconvenience the strike may have caused, which, it pointed out, “is of the company’s fault”.
The ministry has already agreed with the company that provides Osypa with petrol, it said, for direct payments by the state of the fuel cost while it is also looking into ways of doing the same with the salaries of Osypa’s employees.
It also said that it is ready to continue the dialogue with Osypa.
A total €3.5m has been reportedly overpaid to the company and the two sides have agreed that this amount must be deducted from the state’s contribution to Osypa going forward. But the company, while acknowledging the overpayments and the need for the money to be withheld, maintains that such withholding cannot be effected in the winter period, when use of public transport is less than in the summer months when tourists use the buses.
A company official said on Tuesday that there was no sense in enforcing cuts during the winter months, when the company’s cost is higher and revenues are lower.
Osypa employees and management have warned that should they not see their wages by Friday, they will be staging an indefinite strike.