Unrest at the electricity authority (EAC) was averted on Friday during a marathon meeting where stakeholders thrashed out a basic deal on outstanding issues to be firmed up by the end of February, before a new government takes office.
All sides agreed to intensive discussions on the issues at stake would be held in the coming weeks with the aim of resolving them by the end of February, before the new government takes office.
After the four-hour meeting, Labour Minister Kyriakos Koushos called the development “a happy ending” while the leadership of the EAC said the deal would ensure the viability of the organisation and its role in the coming energy landscape.
At stake were issues related to staffing demands, the level of participation of the EAC in the sector of renewables, and problems pointed out by unions at the Dhekelia power plant.
The unions had complained that the energy industry was set for a significant shakeup and that the survival of the EAC in a new more competitive environment was at stake.
Along with Koushos, attending Friday’s meeting were Energy Minister Natasa Pilides, representatives of the EAC unions Epopai, Sidikek-Peo, Syvaek and Sepaek and the EAC’s president, Despina Panagiotou Theodosiou, along with other members of the board.
A core demand from the unions had included opening up 370 job positions, including mechanics and network specialists. The finance ministry’s budget however had greenlighted 145 openings, which irked the unions.
According to Koushos, it was agreed that this demand would be referred by the EAC board for labour-ministry mediation and that intensive contacts would begin within the coming week to try and “reach a conclusion as soon as possible”, Koushos said, referring to the “very productive, informative, and efficient meeting, which had a happy ending.”
On the RES aspect, consultations would open with the Cyprus Energy Regulatory Authority (Cera). “We all agree that the EAC has a role in the activity in the field of RES but also a very important role in the competitive electricity market of Cyprus as well as in ensuring the adequacy and energy security of our country,” said Pilides.
“Therefore, regarding the issue of EAC’s activity in RES, it has been agreed that an intensive consultation will take place within the next week with the aim of quickly sending an additional letter to Cera, which will clarify exactly the ways in which the EAC is involved in the RES sector with the aim of having this plan approved as soon as possible”.
Unions had been demanding that any interference by other state services in RES should be scrapped so the EAC could improve its energy offerings and reduce the cost of production.
On the Dhekelia power station, unions said the plant was being mishandled and demanded the outdated and cost-inefficient units be upgraded. They were pushing for the modernisation of the plant to meet the latest standards and help alleviate the massive fines passed on to consumers due to the heavy pollutants of the plant.
“We all agree and have always agreed that Dhekelia must continue to be used both for reasons of sufficiency and for reasons of energy security and therefore again based on the development plan already has prepared by the EAC and which has already been approved by the board, consultation will take place next week so that this development plan is also approved by the ministry of energy and submitted to Cera together with the RES plan,” said Pilides, adding that all of the issues were interrelated.
“At the same time, the consultations we are doing with the European Commission will continue, on the same wavelength, and we believe that all this will have a happy ending both for the sustainability and the role of EAC itself, and of course for the consumer with the reduction of prices but also the green transition,” she added.
Another issue that arise during the meeting was control of electric vehicle charging stations which will be discussed with the transport ministry. “We believe that these are issues that can easily be resolved and have already preliminarily agreed with the minister of transport that this consultation will take place immediately,” the minister said.
When asked if they will have time to do all this before the end of their term, both Koushos and Pilides were optimistic.
“If there is good will from everyone, there is enough time to be able to provide solutions to the problems presented,” said Koushos.
EAC president Theodosiou said: “We consider that we have ensured the viability of EAC and also that its role as a pillar in the energy landscape of Cyprus will continue”.
The head of Epopai Kyriakos Tafounas said the unions had been given the opportunity to develop their positions “on the serious issues that we have highlighted and that have been of concern to us lately”.
“Even though the discussion was intense on some aspects, the good thing is that we reached a conclusion on all issues. We are satisfied and will await the final decisions, conclusions, letters…,” he added.
Earlier in the day before the meeting began, the four main unions had objected to the presence of a fifth union – which opposes their position – at a meeting with competent ministers on Friday aiming to discuss issues concerning the authority.
Representatives from Epopai, Sidikek-Peo, Syvaek and Sepaek refused to enter the room where the meeting was due to be held at the finance ministry in protest that a fifth union, Astepaek, which disagrees with their position, also attended.
The four said they represent 96 per cent of workers at the authority.
In the end, the meeting with the energy, finance and labour minsters started with a 45-minute delay in which only Astepaek took part.
This lasted for 20 minutes, with the other four trade unions waiting outside. After that, the remaining unions began a separate meeting with the ministers.
Epopai head Kyriakos Tafounas told CNA that while the previous meeting was attended by the four unions, the fifth was invited to the meeting under the pretext that it was recently registered.
The four unions “have been cooperating for decades on all the problems in the authority,” he said, adding that the other union disagrees with their positions.