A meeting between all sides has been set for next week in a bid to clinch some arrangement staving off strike action threatened by trade unions of the Electricity Authority, Labour Minister Kyriacos Koushos said on Tuesday.
Koushos revealed the date of the crucial discussion following separate meetings he held on Tuesday with two of his colleagues in the cabinet – Energy Minister Natasa Pilides and Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides.
It’s understood the January 13 meeting of all sides will feature Pilides, Petrides, representatives of the Electricity Authority (EAC) unions, and Koushos himself – acting as mediator in the dispute.
As the minister with the energy portfolio, Pilides is responsible for the EAC. Petrides holds the purse strings.
EAC syndicates have threatened to enforce work-to-rule unless the government meets their demands – which relate to the hiring of an additional 370 workers at the state-run power company, the status of the Dhekelia power station, and the EAC’s role in the renewables sector.
Imminent strike action, and power cuts, were averted back in December when Koushos bought the government some time.
But subsequent reports suggested his attempts at mediation had angered the energy and finance ministers, who felt Koushos had made certain pledges to the unions in getting them to back off. Pilides and Petrides had earlier made it clear they would not talk to the syndicates while under the threat of industrial action.
Asked about this on Tuesday, Koushos flatly denied having made any promises to the syndicates.
“This is a myth. I never promised anything, other than they [the unions] would meet with my two colleagues.”
Pressed on the subject, Koushos insisted the unions have now agreed to meet with the two ministers “without any promises whatsoever.”
His remarks appeared to suggest that the syndicates have for the time being lifted the threat of strikes – enabling the meeting with the ministers to go ahead.
However, a day earlier the head of one of the EAC unions warned they would bring strikes back on the table “unless the correct decisions are taken.”