Parents of affected school children have appealed to striking Limassol drivers, bus company Emel and the transport ministry to resolve their conflicts after the drivers started a 48-hour strike on Tuesday morning.
The parents’ union of public schools said immediate action should be taken by all concerned so students can get to school in the mornings and home after their lessons.
“We always respect the trade-union rights of all employees and thus Emel bus drivers, and respect the right of workers to strike, but we believe that the loss of teaching time from bus strikes victimises children and therefore we don’t agree,” an announcement from the union said.
Those involved, they added, should be aware that this was a critical period for students, especially those who will graduate this year, and in view of the Pancyprian examinations the loss of teaching time is irreplaceable.
The strikers met at the central bus station near the old Limassol hospital in the morning and repeated their message that they were only asking for what had already been agreed, and warned they would intensify their actions.
The strike was announced on Monday when negotiations at the transport ministry ended without a result.
“Unfortunately, after almost seven hours of negotiations, what was set before us at the table was not what we were asking for,” Sek trade union rep Yiannis Tsouris said.
“We are asking for nothing more than the reintroduction of the 2013 collective agreement, nor are we making any new demands or ask for increases,” he said and reiterated that “this is non-negotiable”.
The employees argue that in 2013, they signed a collective agreement cutting their pay, however, as it expired in December 2015, they want their salaries reinstated to former levels.
They say they had given a month for the dispute to be resolved but there was no result.
Tsouris also said that it is being determined whether overpayments have been made by the state to the company, something trade union Peo representative Christos Christofi says is decisive for the future of transport.
“There is a difference between the company and the ministry, and they are now talking about an arbitration that will determine who is right, how money is being charged, how much the costs are, who pays and how they have to pay,” Christofi said.
Workers cannot be the victims of this dispute, the two unions agreed.
The drivers asked for the public’s understanding, arguing they had no other way of claiming their rights.