The forestry department postponed a three-hour work stoppage on Thursday morning to protest understaffing, following a meeting with the agriculture ministry.

The strike, which was scheduled to take place between 9.30am and 12.30pm outside the finance ministry and followed by a march to the presidential palace was postponed until December, an announcement by the forestry department representatives at Pasydy union said.

The decision was taken after a meeting on Wednesday evening with the department and Pasydy union representatives at the agriculture ministry.

During the meeting, Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis “announced some decisions, which were taken after consultations with the ministry of finance” to satisfy the demands of the union and resolve the issue of understaffing”, Pasydy said.

The minister also explained how these decisions will be implemented and “set clear time frames for their implementation”, it was added.

The union said that it will reassess whether to strike depending on the agriculture ministry’s moves to implement the measures.

On Wednesday, the union had announced their decision to strike saying staff have been pressing home the issue of understaffing since cutbacks to personnel numbers in 2015 without the issue being resolved.

“At the same time that the threat of forest fires is growing, the problem of understaffing of the forestry department is growing and it poses a serious risk for protection of our forests, but also for society and the economy in general,” the announcement said.

It added that even after big fires this year, all that is going on is an exchange of letters and proposals “instead of decisions and actions” despite all the promises made by the government to boost the forestry department.

“The problem remains at dramatic and dangerous levels,” the union said.

In November 2019 they had publicly complained that staffing levels were worse than the summer of 2016, when massive fires destroyed much of the areas of Solea and Argaka.

Today, more than four months after the Arakapas fire, staffing levels are even worse than in 2019, the union added.

“At the same time, our members are called to work in exhausting and inhuman hours, in conditions of constant tension and pressure to fill the gaps in the service, with unforeseen risks for everyone,” the statement said.

The personnel are demanding an unfreezing of all vacancies, the restoration of 27 posts abolished between 2012 and 2015, and the filling of another 28 positions of forestry officer, an entry-level post, which although unfrozen, have still not been filled.

The union also clarified that these are just the department’s immediate needs in order to operate “at tolerable levels”.