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Race on to avert bus strike in three cities next week

Transport Minister Vasiliki Anastassiadou said on Friday she would meet with representatives of public transport companies in a bid to avert the strike measures announced for next week, as Limassol’s Emel bus drivers announced they would also go on an indefinite strike following the Nicosia and Larnaca companies.

Emel employees announced on Friday, they would go an indefinite strike on April 2 just as their colleagues working in Nicosia’s Osel and Larnaca’s Zenon.

The employees of Osel and Zenon announced on Thursday they  would go on an indefinite strike from April 2 due to the fact they have not been paid their March wages yet which is a violation of collective agreements as well as the code of industrial relations.

Emel employees said due to the fact that the company told them it could not restore their salaries to pre-crisis levels and that it was difficult to even pay current salaries and other benefits, citing viability problems.

Anastassiadou said on Friday she would have meetings with the companies to find a way to avert the strikes.  “We will deal with the matter,” she said.

The island’s four public transport companies, including Paphos bus company Osypa have been staging strikes on and off since late last year over non-payment of wages on time, and their demands to have benefits that were cut during the 2013 financial crisis restored.

The situation is linked with the decision by the transport ministry last year to claim back money it overpaid in the past to all six public bus companies, cutting the monthly subsidies which the companies in turn use to pay their employees.

Anastassiadou had said at the time the cuts would be made until all the money was recovered. The existing contracts between the companies and the government will expire in July 2020. The money should be returned by the time the contracts end, the minister had said.

The bus companies said after this decision that the slashed subsidy would lead them to the closure of services.

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