EVERY few years, the CyBC becomes an issue of public debate. The latest debate was sparked by the decision of Diko and Disy to vote against the corporation’s 2019 budget at the legislature last Friday. Diko objected to the big amounts of the taxpayer’s money being allocated to the corporation as well the additional €2.5 million included in this year’s budget to cover the loss of revenue from not taking commercial advertising that was decided by the government. Disy had similar objections, arguing that the corporation was badly managed and wasteful and broadcasting low quality shows despite the large amounts of money it was taking from the taxpayer.
This perfectly legitimate criticism that we hear every few years, and which leads to promises of reform by the government of the day but nothing is ever done. The distortions, structural problems, inefficiencies, waste are never tackled because no government has the desire to take on the corporation’s powerful, reactionary unions or the parties that back them. On Monday, interior minister Constantinos Petrides met the CyBC board and discussed all the problems faced by the corporation and announced there would be an extraordinary meeting of the council of ministers with the budget the main item on its agenda.
Petrides admitted there were many problems relating to workers’ terms and conditions, created over the decades and he had given clear instructions to the board to prepare, within a month, a new structure and organisation plan “that served the current needs of a contemporary television station”. The CyBC depended excessively on workers employed on open contracts with no prospects of promotion or significant pay rises while there were people employed under civil service-type conditions for decades.
Why had this situation come about? CyBC unions had secured such big salaries and perks for full-time employees in the past, that new boards chose to hire people on open contracts rather than as full-time employees in order to keep the payroll under control.
There are two classes of employees which no government dares to tamper with. If it treated all workers as full-time staff on CyBC’s terms and conditions, its pay-roll would sky-rocket. On the other hand, it is grossly unfair to have two classes of workers even though all work full-time. There is no way the unions would agree to the first-class workers having their pay and benefits docked so that pay and conditions are standardised for all full-time staff. Without this happening it will be very difficult, if not impossible to modernise the structure and organisation plan which are inextricably linked with pay and work terms.
We hope we are proved wrong, but experience would suggest that the minister is being extremely optimistic in saying that a new modern structure will be prepared to “lead to the speedy resolution of workers’ issues”.