Forestry department employees, members of Pasydy, held a symbolic protest outside the agriculture and finance ministries on Monday – International Day of Forests – to lobby for additional staff to help address what they say is chronic understaffing.
This year’s international day is dedicated to the role of forests in ensuring sustainable production and consumption.
“It is noted that for yet one more year, the forestry department is called on to manage and protect our country’s forests while facing a very serious understaffing problem,” the employees said.
This not only takes a toll on personnel but poses a risk to forests, society and the economy more generally.
Decisions over the past two years to unfreeze posts do not resolve the problem, as the department needs to return to levels of tolerable staffing so that it can fulfil its expanded role, they added.
Since the end of January, the union has called on members to abstain from overtime in protest at the state’s failure to restore 27 positions that were scrapped in 2012 to 2015, which are “essential for the department’s ability to operate to an acceptable level”.
The workers staged a six-hour work stoppage over the same issue in December 2021.
In Monday’s announcement, the employees said that since the last meeting at the finance ministry at the end of November, and despite public statements to the contrary, no action has been taken to resolve problems.
According to the union, the forestry sector also suffers from the downgrading of forestry education reflected in the decision to suspend efforts to set up a relevant department at Tepak (Cyprus University of Technology), the sidelining of the forestry college and controversial proposals to reintroduce a forest diploma.
Lack of advanced forestry training and research on Cyprus deprives effective forestry management and protection of support, they said.
“On the occasion of International Day of Forests, we warn that this continued negative approach touches management of forests across the board and not just firefighting,” they said.
“Any changes that have been implemented are limited and unable to address the existing and huge challenges, whether these involve fires or the effective management of our forests as single ecosystems,” they concluded.