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Cyprus

Protest at prison over ‘dismissal’ of 13 workers (Updated)

prisons protest by christos theodorides
Unions protest outside Nicosia Prisons by Christos Theodorides

By Tom Cleaver and Elias Hazou

Trade unions held a protest outside the central prison on Thursday against what they described as the “dismissal” of 13 prison workers who had been employed on fixed-term contacts.

The two unions present at the protest, Isotita and Pasydy, released a joint statement decrying “the state’s unjust and irrational decision” to dismiss the workers.

They added that they wanted to send “a loud and unequivocal message that no one is left out” in the prisons department.

The government, however, contests the charge that the workers had been “dismissed”, with justice ministry spokeswoman Gogo Vasilaki saying there had been no decision to get rid of the 13, but rather that their fixed-term contracts had reached an end.

“The workers were on fixed-term contracts until the end of December, and the government offered a two-month extension at the time, bringing us up to today. Now, we are offering them the opportunity to apply for permanent positions at the prisons instead,” she said.

She added that the workers will be able to apply for 87 open positions, and that departmental examinations for the prospective hires will take place in April.

A trade union rep claimed the reduction in personnel at the central prisons posed security risks for the guards.

Later in the day, the justice minister himself insisted the 13 prison guards had been treated fairly.

Marios Hartsiotis said the 13 in question knew from the outset that they were being hired on fixed-term contracts, and that at some point their contracts would expire.

The prison guards got hired about two years ago.

“They had asked for one last extension of four months. The finance ministry, as part of fiscal policy, approved only two months, for the period January 1 to February 29, 2024,” Hartsiotis explained.

He added that the justice ministry, responding to the ‘sensitivity’ of the issue, went ahead and issued a notice of vacancies at the central prisons. The notice and the expressions of interest expire on Wednesday, March 1.

And according to the minister, 12 of the 13 affected prison guards have expressed an interest in taking the written examination for the vacancies.

In fact, said Hartsiotis, the 13th prison guard would also be allowed to sit the exam, even though normally he’d be ineligible as he is over the age of 40.

Those passing the exam would be hired within the space of two to three months. And they would be hired as full-time civil servants, with all the attendant benefits.

Should the 13 in question pass the exams and become permanent civil servants, the minister added, that would more than compensate for them being out of work for the next two to three months.

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