From today, households and businesses in the Nicosia, Larnaca and Famagusta districts were to be subjected to power cuts of 30 minutes to an hour in the evening because Electricity Authority unions had decided they should be running the energy policy of the country. And because the government had not given in to this irrational and blatantly unlawful demand, they decided to inconvenience the population of half the country. On Tuesday night, in the face of a public outcry, they called off the strike.
This was never an industrial dispute, as the energy minister pointed out, but a political row over energy policy. Unions do not approve of the government’s policy, which is being pursued by the EAC board, and decided to take matters into their own hands. They instructed their members not to operate six units at Dhekelia power station, which would have affected electricity supply in half of the country. If demand went above a certain level, the Transmission System Operator (TSO) said there would be power cuts, to ensure some system reserves were maintained.
EAC unions have become accustomed to imposing their diktats on the government. They have been blocking the opening up of the electricity market for years to maintain the EAC monopoly, they vetoed the decision that the TSO should be independent for the same reason and blocked the development of renewable energy sources for as long as they could. Ironically, now one of their diktats is that the energy regulator should allow the authority to expand into the RES sector.
This outrageous behaviour is the result of the tolerance shown to these unions by successive governments and the political parties. Even when they were holding society to ransom, politicians did not dare criticise the union threats, calling for a resolution through dialogue. Now there is agreed dialogue, what will it be on? As the energy minister pointed out, this is not a dispute about pay or work conditions – the unions want to act as the board of the authority, to dictate which power stations can be used, the number of workers that must be hired (370) and give orders to the energy regulator.
What dialogue are the parties proposing and who would the unions talk to? Senior management and the board of the EAC have not uttered a word about this matter, indicating they agree with the unions or are afraid to confront them. If it is the former, all board members should be replaced because they were not appointed to serve the unions and, if it is the latter, they should be replaced because they are incapable of running the authority.
There should be no dialogue with unions even if the EAC unions have called off the strike, for now.