Union representatives and the Transport Ministry will meet next Monday for more discussions about the industrial dispute at Paphos airport, which led to a two-hour lighting strike on Saturday night that affected eight flights.
Employees of a ground staff company LGS that lost its contract at the airports called the impromptu strike over fears they would be made redundant. Their union claims the jobs of 70 workers at Paphos airport and 40 at Larnaca airport were now at risk.
Union representatives met with the deputy director of the transport ministry Yiannis Nicolaides on Monday at a meeting also attended by representatives of Hermes Airports and civil aviation to solve the issue. Discussions will continue next Monday as the issue was not resolved.
Speaking on Monday morning, before the meeting, transport minister Yiannis Karousos said the rights of workers of companies offering ground services at Cyprus airports were protected, explaining that redundant employees would be given priority when new contractors were hiring staff.
Karousos told reporters that the government was obliged to ask for tenders from more companies offering ground services because airlines had been complaining about the oligopolistic regime at the airports.
By decree, there were only two companies offering ground services at Cyprus airports and their charges were, reportedly very high, a fact confirmed by Karousos, who said:
“There were very strong complaints by airline companies about an oligopoly, high charges, while some big airlines had warned us that they would pull out of Cyprus. You understand how our airports and our connectivity would have been affected by such a development.
The minister explained that when the relevant decree expired it was decided “to offer free access to the airports, thus opening up the market, so as to end the oligopoly and the high charges.”
The result of this, said Karousos, was that “charges to airlines fell by 40 per cent, without the taxpayer having to put his hand in his pocket.”
“The new company will begin hiring from those currently employed and they will have priority – the change will happen from November 1, therefore there is time for this move to happen,” Karousos said.
The minister conceded, however, that he was surprised after the new company which signed a contract with a major airline had issued an announcement just hours afterwards that it was to let off surplus staff.
Petros Demosthenous, district secretary of Sek Paphos, said that that approximately 70 employees of LGS in Paphos and approximately 40 employees at Larnaca were left exposed and there was a possibility of losing their jobs.