Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos appeared doubtful on Wednesday that an agreement can be reached soon with electricity authority workers after a strike threat was called off at the last moment on Tuesday.
Talks are expected with trade unions and ministries next week.
There is a dead-end course when there are strike measures and a flat refusal to discuss the issues, Koushos said.
“We have to realise that we have to discuss any problems.”
Koushos will contact Energy Minister Natasa Pilides and Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides on Thursday, so they can arrange a meeting with the trade unions early next week. Pilides is currently in Brussels discussing energy issues that concern Cyprus.
“It will be decided who will attend each meeting,” he said.
“Perhaps the period is not suitable not only because of the holidays, but also because of the election period,” Koushos said, adding that cabinet had decided to not accept any labour requests as of November 1.
He also recalled that the work of the parliament has been suspended until the presidential elections are held in February.
“However, we should try through a structured productive dialogue to see where we end up,” he said.
The minister also thanked the trade unions representing electricity authority workers for their ‘constructive role’ in suspending the strike measures announced for Wednesday. He had earlier told Cybc earlier that the government had a plan if the strike were to take place.
Earlier on Wednesday, Turkish Cypriot media had reported that the Republic’s electricity authority has requested from the north the provision of a daily 30MW if needed.
The scheduled indefinite strike in EAC would have caused power cuts in three districts as it would have suspended the operation of six stream turbines of the Dhekelia power plant. The plant generates about 34.5 per cent of total authority’s electricity production. It was called off at the eleventh hour on Tuesday evening following the intervention of the labour minister who had separate meetings with the unions and EAC management.
After Koushos committed to arranging meetings with the competent ministers, a trade union representative called for talks to address the concerns of electricity authority workers to take place over the holidays to reach agreement so they do not “have to revert to measures”.
“It is an opportunity to take advantage of the holiday season to come to a conclusion and not have to revert to the measures,” the chairman of Epopai trade union representing EAC workers Kyriacos Tafounas told the Cyprus News Agency on Wednesday. But added that the unions always “respect” holiday periods.
However, he appeared realistic. “It is possible we may not conclude next week” bearing in mind other commitments of the labour minister but said it will certainly not take “too much time”.
Workers called a strike saying that some of the power units in Dhekelia are operating without a permit and contribute to high electricity costs and profiteering while they implied there are staff shortages.
Explaining the decision to strike, Tafounas said “it is our obligation to intervene for the benefit of consumers”.
He said the workers raised their issues repeatedly before the summer and called on the government for a dialogue without a response. They also held a one-hour warning work-stoppage four weeks before they announced the indefinite strike.
“To date, there has been no dialogue…to discuss anything and make decisions that will be serious both for the future of the organisation and for the cost of electricity,” the union head said. He added that discussions are needed for another looming issue.
“The issue of adequacy, and how to avoid possibly a total shutdown of the system…that may lead us to potentially unpleasant situations for the economy and the country.”
He said that last year, the chairman of the Cyprus energy regulatory authority (Cera) announced that in 2024 we will need an additional 650MW of conventional generation. At the same time, there is a condition that the Dhekelia units in question should be withdrawn to allow the operation in renewable energy sources, Tafounas said.
“We are a small and isolated island, we have no access to anywhere in terms of electricity, we have no common borders with friendly states that can help us, we are dependent on liquid fuel, and the only way we can be assured in terms of sufficiency is to have tanks full of fuel and units at all times to put them into operation,” he added.
Cyprus has been waiting for natural gas for 20 years, the union head said, adding that two years ago, the EAC was asked to make a one-time payment of €43 million to move forward with this infrastructure.
“And two years later the ministry is telling us that in order to allow you to do renewable energy you have to withdraw the generating units that we installed for gas.”
“There is a misconception that renewable energy will help us the most or it may be uncontrolled installation of renewable energy,” Tafounas said.
He added that from the opening of approximately 370 positions requested by the organisation, only a small number of about 146 jobs were approved. The rest, Tafounas said, were referred to buy services from non-existent private contractors. However, it is difficult to find staff for this specialised sector.
“It was ironic and humiliating to be referred to us to buy services supposedly from private contractors who have this expertise, even though it is not legitimate for permanent needs of the organisation to buy services,” he added.
According to Tafounas, when this happened in the past to install some power lines, they fell down with the first rains.