By Iole Damaskinos, Elias Hazou and Andria Kades
Electricity Authority (EAC) unions called off their strike planned for Wednesday in an eleventh hour decision on Tuesday evening.
The U-turn was due to the intervention of Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos, according to a union announcement.
In a snap meeting with the unions which ended on Tuesday evening, Koushos committed to arranging meetings between unions, the ministers of energy and finance in the coming week, in his presence. Union reps expressed their concern over the future of the EAC and the energy sector.
The EAC’s board of directors welcomed the developments, saying the union’s decision “was responsible during this difficult period of time. Postponing the measures ensures the continuation of a constructive dialogue between all parties involved.”
Earlier in the day, EAC workers were widely condemned as strike action was set to see rolling power cuts around parts of the island as of Wednesday evening, the schedule of which had even been issued by the Transmission System Operator (TSO).
One organisation after another appealed to the EAC unions and the government (their employer) to resolve their differences.
The Federation of Employers and Industrialists (OEV) called on the unions to suspend their planned strike and make use of statutory procedures to resolve disputes, “for the common good.”
OEV said “the time has come for the state to assume its responsibilities towards businesses, workers and citizens, who are once again held hostage by a small group of workers,” blaming the state and EAC workers in equal measure for the unfolding stalemate.
It is unthinkable that the EAC unions would resort to a strike in the current economic environment, OEV said, adding that the unions’ declared causes have nothing to do with a labour dispute.
Meanwhile, entertainment venues association Pasika issued a similar call for the suspension of the strike, asking both parties to “rise to the occasion… to discuss and resolve any disputes.”
Businesses hoping to make up for losses earlier in the year would be left to face further losses by being deprived of a basic service, for which they pay in spades, Pasika said.
The federation of patients associations (Osak) said that chronic patients who are under mechanical support or use electronic devices to survive would have been affected by the scheduled blackouts.
“Correct and detailed information is needed at any given time by chronic patients for whom uninterrupted supply of electricity is in some cases a matter of life or death,” the federation said.
“It is not possible to put people living on ventilators at risk because of labour disputes,” it added.
The cuts would also have left wheelchair users who live in apartment buildings trapped outside or inside their homes if they cannot use elevators.
Head of the ruling Disy party Averof Neophytou had likewise appealed to the EAC and the government to settle their dispute through talks.
“It is not consumers’ fault if there are differences between employers and employees.”
Neofytou added he was “absolutely confident” that a solution could be found through dialogue.
Meanwhile, main opposition Akel blamed the Disy-led government for “pulling the plug.”
It said the current administration had ignored EAC workers’ longstanding pleas for more staffing and for allowing the corporation to expand into renewables projects.
As of Wednesday afternoon, EAC workers at the Dhekelia power station had threatened not to operate the six steam turbines at the facility, removing approximately 360 megawatts (MW) from the system.
That would have left about 600MW available to the grid and, because demand load typically exceeds that, authorities were set to initiate rolling interruptions of service in the Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta districts. On Monday demand peaked at 660MW at around 7pm.
Deputy TSO spokesperson Rogiros Tapakis told the Cyprus Mail technically speaking, these would not have been “blackouts, brownouts or greyouts. The correct term is managed congestion, or managed interruptions of service,” Tapakis said.
Paphos and Limassol were only due to be affected were there be an unexpected fault in the system.