Drivers with the Famagusta bus company Osea have warned of an indefinite strike in the event the administrative court allows the joint venture between Malta Lines and Kapnos Airport Shuttle to run the island’s public transport system.
The drivers are expected to inform the European trade union of professional drivers and ask for their support in the fight against the move. An information campaign around Famagusta will also be launched to let people know of what is in their opinion the negative consequences from the assignment of services to the new joint venture.
The consortium will take over about 75 per cent of all Cyprus’ transport on July 5.
The deal for Nicosia bus routes was finalised last month, while Osea appealed to the administrative court against the consortium taking over in Famagusta.
Pavlos Varnavas a representative of 150 Osea bus drivers told the media on Friday that Osea submitted to Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos two complaints against consortium based on what he called “dubious” dealing on the part of the Maltese end of the venture.
He said the minister must “take initiatives to prevent the destruction of public transport”.
The bus drivers are also not pleased with the one-year contracts for the employers offered by the new venture and “the conservation of all transport routes is non-negotiable”, they said.
“The neoliberal practices applied in Malta’s public transport are indicative of the intentions of the consortium,” Varnavas said. In the first two years of its operation the company had cancelled the collective agreements and reduced wages by 40 per cent. The fear is the consortium might also replace current drivers with lower-cost labour.
“Cypriot professional bus drivers will become unemployed,” Varnavas said.
The bus drivers also expressed their concerns for the buses, as the company in Malta had purchased vehicles from Turkey, while their intensions for Cyprus appeared to be the purchase of buses from China, although some of buses operating within the current system have come from China.
Drivers also worry about a reduction in routes, Varnavas said. Osea, which has been operating in the Famagusta district for 10 years runs 75 buses but the company only plans to buy 49.
“The cost of 49 Chinese buses would be €5.9 million whereas the cost of 75 buses from the EU comes to €15.8 million,” Varnavas said.
Osea asked for another meeting with the transport minister.