The transport ministry on Thursday called on airport employees and companies to respect the relevant decrees and regulations, a day after an unlawful work stoppage caused travel chaos at Paphos airport.

The ministry said it would not hesitate to let go companies which fail to abide by its decrees, as it pleaded with airport employees to allow a ‘reasonable amount of time’ to resolve the dispute.

Thousands of passengers on over 20 flights were either left stranded at the airport faced with hours-long delays or had to spend the night at a hotel after their flight was cancelled as Paphos ground staff held an impromptu five-hour work stoppage on Wednesday afternoon.

The strike, aimed to express the workers anger after they received redundancy letters, was not done by the book, advisor to the transport minister Antonios Minides told the Cyprus Mail.

It took place as a scheduled meeting at the ministry between the three employing companies and trade unions was happening to resolve the situation.

“Yesterday’s strike was not in line with the Industrial Relations Code since they did not issue a warning, necessary based on the legislation,” Minides said, noting that operations were continuing as normal on Thursday.

Based on the global airport regulations, no employer or company is allowed to affect the smooth operation of the airport or affect over eight flights per 24 hours, the transport official said.

However, there have been no instructions from the relevant department to take any action against the striking staff, Minides said, since the issue is considered closed after the meeting at the transport ministry.

Some 36 Paphos ground employees had received redundancy letters on October 2 after three new companies were hired for the ground handling of Hermes airports in Larnaca and Paphos.

This went against a transport ministry decree, which provides that when employees are deemed redundant due to loss of business by a third company, the company which gains that business and hires workers must give priority to those persons made redundant.

Of the 36, eight are seasonal staff, while the remaining 28 will continue to be employed under the same terms, the transport ministry announced late on Wednesday.

On Thursday, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos send a strong message to employing companies, saying he will not hesitate to take their licences if they fail to follow the relevant decrees.

The ministry continues discussions with the companies to resolve the issue that arose at Larnaca airport, where some employees were also handed redundancy letters. Ground staff in Larnaca also held a two-hour work stoppage on Tuesday morning.

The number of the Larnaca staff is smaller than in Paphos, Minides said, and the issue is expected to be settled by this Wednesday.

“We ask the employees to allow us a reasonable amount of time to assess the situation and provide solutions,” the minister’s advisor said.

He explained that the ministry will first need to check whether the redundancies were justifiable.

Defending the strike, Sek secretary of private employees Elisseos Michael said the workers showed a lot of patience over the past month.

“Unfortunately, there were different situations that led the staff to a new general meeting during which they decided to hold an indefinite strike,” Michael explained.

He apologised to the public for the inconvenience caused, confirming that the issue in Paphos has been resolved while he expects the dispute in Larnaca to end next week also.