By Lizzy Ioannidou
Renewed indefinite strike measures were launched on Friday by Paphos public transport company (Osypa) employees, after the company’s failure to pay November salaries, despite government promises on Tuesday that a solution would be found this week.
Once again, thousands of students, pensioners, workers and tourists were affected, “but responsibility does not lie with the drivers,” their representative Christos Evangelou said.
Misunderstanding has been an enduring issue for the past eight years between the ministry and the company, Evangelou said, but it is the workers who have been left unpaid for November, and will very likely remain without their December and 13th salaries as well.
“The differences are between the ministry and the company and we are always in the middle,” Evangelou said, adding that no one is willing to work for free.
Evangelou called on the ministry to renew efforts with the company so that a solution can be found, because if not, Paphos risks remaining without public transport, he said.
If a solution is not found until Monday, Evangelou added, Osypa employees will resort to an escalation of measures outside the presidential palace.
Meanwhile, the transport ministry told state broadcaster Cybc on Friday that it is drawing up a plan B to resolve all of the issues.
The ministry’s plan is to provide alternative buses for public transport, with the transportation of students to school being a priority task, said the director general of the transport ministry, Stavros Michael.
“We are willing to give Osypa one more opportunity for dialogue, but if a solution is not found in the next few days, we will have to move forward with plan B,” Michael said.
Osypa CEO Constantinos Ioannides explained on Cybc on Friday that initially the company had officially requested the ministry draw up a new independent arbitration committee, suggesting that this committee be chaired a former judge of the supreme court.
Ioannides said that this was rejected by the ministry, which requested that head-to-head discussions be launched between the two parties without mediators, a proposal which was then rejected by Osypa which asserted that this would not bring about fair results, and maintained that differences needed to be settled either through arbitration or court proceedings.
Strike measures were launched by three out of the six bus companies on Monday in protest against not receiving their November salaries.
Deliberations between the transport ministry and the bus companies of Larnaca and Limassol quickly reached an agreement with the government signing off on Monday on financial contributions allowing the companies to pay their employees who in turn called off strike measures.
Osypa employees remained unyielding until Wednesday, when they returned to work after receiving government promises that a solution to the company’s problems will be found within the week.
Friday’s renewal of strike measures comes after Osypa’s inability to come to an agreement with the ministry.
Last March, the transport ministry said that all bus companies had received overpayments. The biggest chunk of overpayments made resulting from setting high the cost per kilometre for which the companies receive a government subsidy, was between 2010 and 2014.
Bus companies were unable to pay salaries on time after the government announced that they must reclaim the money owed by the bus companies following a ruling of an independent arbitration committee that was tasked about a year ago to weigh in on the matter.