|Monday, 11 December 2023|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 98-07-17
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>
Friday, July 17, 1998
 Airline bosses plan to break strikeBy Martin Hellicar
CYPRUS Airways bosses are threatening to hire foreign planes and pilots in an attempt to break next week's strike by CY pilots and to ensure that 25, 000 tourists are not left stranded.
"If the strike goes ahead our first response will be a full liberalisation of the skies over Cyprus so that anyone can take passengers in and out," the airline's chairman Takis Kyriakides told a Nicosia press conference.
Kyriakides said the government fully supported this drastic action in the face of a threat by pilots' union Pasipy to ground 153 CY flights with a three-day strike starting on Thursday, July 23.
The airline's lucrative routes to and from London Heathrow and Athens are currently protected from intense competition.
But Kyriakides, speaking ahead of the national carrier's AGM, said Cyprus Airways had an obligation to passengers who had booked to fly with them from July 23 to 26.
"We are working to make arrangements with foreign companies to get planes to transport all the people who wanted to travel with CY during this period, " he said.
He said arrangements to hire aircraft and crew from foreign charter firms had to be made swiftly to cover the gap the strike would create, and he warned Pasipy to act quickly if it wished to avoid this eventuality.
"Today, or at the latest tomorrow, this thing must be sorted out," he said. "The pilots are making a big, big mistake - it is an inexcusable strike," he said.
But he did say he hoped there would be good news concerning the strike today.
Acting President Spyros Kyprianou was reportedly working hard behind the scenes yesterday in an effort to get Pasipy to call off a strike which threatens to plunge the troubled national carrier into deeper turmoil.
Kyriakides would only confirm that "certain initiatives" were under way, but he would not elaborate.
Pasipy last night called an emergency meeting to consider a mediation proposal tabled by Kyprianou. Details of the proposal were not released.
Earlier yesterday, Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiakonou was cagey about what the government would do if the strike went ahead, but he made it clear that negotiating with the pilots while a strike loomed was out of the question.
"Where things have been led to there is no room for negotiations, the only thing that remains is for the pilots to call off their strike and to resume negotiations from where they ended," he said.
Pasipy called the strike on Tuesday after the breakdown of talks with management to secure a new collective agreement.
Pilots say their pay demands are reasonable, given that they have not had a pay rise, other than annual increments and other benefits, since 1989. The company, whose wage bill represents a third of annual costs, says CY pilots are among the best paid in the world.
But Kyriakides said yesterday the strike had nothing to do with pay demands, and everything to do with squabbling between Pasipy and other CY unions representing pilots. "The problem is just the promotion of co-pilots to pilots. This Pasipy demand clashes with agreements considered binding by other pilots' unions," he said.
The strike, by 95 of around 140 CY pilots, would cost the airline "tens of millions", the CY chief said.
The airline lost £3.2 million last year and a record £4.7 million in 1996.
The strike is expected to ground 153 flights and effect some 25,000 passengers. Kyriakides said the 36 Eurocypria flights scheduled for the three days would not be effected as the CY charter subsidiary's pilots were not striking.
 Pilots charge management wasting moneyBy Martin Hellicar
CYPRUS Airways (CY) bosses are squandering money left right and centre, while asking employees to accept pay cuts, CY pilots union Pasipy charged yesterday.
The union - which has called a strike for next week over the renewal of collective agreements - issued a press release listing what it said were six cases of flagrant misuse of funds by the company.
"CY management, with its strategic plan, proposes savings that will come chiefly from reductions in employees wages. Yet at the same time Group chief executive Dimitrios Pantazis is to get a £36,000 Mercedes, when he already has a car," the Pasipy press release stated.
The CY strategic plan provides for a pay freeze for all employees and a 10 per cent pay cut for pilots. Management says costs must be cut if the ailing national carrier is to get back in the black.
Pasipy said the company was also buying four luxury cars for its London offices, at a cost of "over £150,000."
Other alleged financial scandals were:
CY chairman Takis Kyriakides yesterday dismissed the charges. "It is easy to make accusations but rather harder to prove them," he said.
He said he could not comment in detail on the Pasipy allegations because he had not seen the (union) announcement, but he did respond to the luxury car charges.
"There are very few cars in the company, and these could not be called luxury vehicles," he said. He did not deny new cars had been purchased, but said good prices had been secured for these.
"Concerning the chief executive's car, I can say that the car he had was 13 years old and kept breaking down on him, often leaving him stranded in the road. He was entitled to a new car under his contract," he said.
 Nato 'could monitor no-fly zone'NATO Secretary-general Xavier Solana yesterday said the Alliance would be prepared to monitor a no-fly zone over Cyprus, despite US statements to the contrary.
"We will be able... to monitor, if necessary, a no-fly zone or something of that nature," Solana told the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) in Washington.
On Wednesday, Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon had said it would be "very difficult for any Nato country to get involved in enforcing a no-fly zone that involved other Nato countries". Bacon said the US did not favour a policed no-fly zone, but did support a moratorium on provocative flights or a "self-policed" no-fly zone.
The idea of a no-fly zone was first put forward earlier this year by Greek Foreign Minister Theodoros Pangalos. The US said it would be willing to consider it in exchange for a government pledge to call off the deployment of the Russian-made S-300 missiles.
Solana said discussion of no-fly zone idea was "just beginning".
He said the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Cyprus was not for Nato to decide. "Nato would just be implementing, if necessary, some of the ideas that may be discussed in other fora," he said.
Solana said Nato was opposed to the arrival of the S-300 missiles, due in the Autumn. "We do not think the S-300 deal is a good decision," he said.
 Police step up guard after immigrants fleeBy Charlie Charalambous
CYPRUS police are searching for six Iraqis who escaped from a third-floor hotel balcony where they had been kept under close guard with 103 other boat people since being rescued from the battered Rida Allah.
Police spokesman Glafcos Xenos yesterday confirmed to the Cyprus Mail that five Iraqi Kurds were missing since Tuesday night and that another immigrant, thought to be an Iraqi, had fled a few earlier.
"After the usual checks at the Pefkos hotel they were found to be missing. But we would like to make clear they (all the immigrants) are not in custody but under police protection because of their special status," said Xenos.
The six are believed to have escaped their modest two-star existence at the £25-a-night Pefkos hotel in Limassol by jumping two floors, then scaling down the building on to the street.
They managed to flee despite 20 policemen patrolling the hotel round the clock and strict security measures preventing the Arab and African immigrants from leaving their rooms without permission.
"Following a meeting at Limassol police HQ today it was decided to strengthen protection measures at the hotel, but they (police) are not guards," the police spokesman said.
Xenos would not reveal how many more policemen had been deployed at the hotel, but extra policing will increase the cost of looking after the boat people above the previous £10,000-a-day estimate.
Police only discovered that the Iraqis were missing on Wednesday after the customary body count at the breakfast table.
A police search operation has so far failed to recapture the Iraqis, who had previously requested political asylum to avoid being returned to their country of origin.
Police have named five of the Iraqis as: Abdul Latif, 31, Ali El Kirsani, 29, Srdear Hasan, 26, Roni Mohamed, 23, and Soyhaib Saleb, 25, all from Baghdad. The sixth escapee has not been named.
A number of the immigrants have voiced complaints about the draconian conditions under which they are kept, saying they feel like prisoners.
"They have been complaining about freedom of movement, but we can't allow this or we would lose control," said Xenos.
Since being rescued on June 30, suffering from thirst and starvation, the initial joy at finding a friendly country has now turned into anxiety about their future.
The government has said it will meet all its humanitarian obligations and provide all possible assistance, but ministers have not ruled out the likelihood of deporting most of the boat people.
UNHCR experts are now co-operating with the government in the long bureaucratic process of assessing those who have genuine grounds of asylum and those who have not.
Efforts to find a third country willing to accept the immigrants have so far failed.
Many of the Syrians, Sudanese, Iraqis, Lebanese, Libyans and others crammed on the Rida Allah had paid thousands of dollars for a dream ticket to European Union countries like Greece and Italy.
"Many of the immigrants want to go to Europe and not be sent back to their countries; it is now up to the government to decide," said Xenos.
The woefully unseaworthy Syrian-flagged Rida Allah had been drifting for 10 days after the vessel developed engine trouble two days after leaving Tripoli, Lebanon.
Police said two passengers died of thirst during the fateful trip and were thrown overboard before the Cyprus coastguard intervened.
The ship's Syrian captain Mohammed Mustafa, 31, has been charged with causing death by negligence, and carrying passengers on an unsuitable vessel for financial reward.
 'We're not out to victimise anyone'By Charlie Charalambous
THE INVESTIGATION into why four schoolchildren were denied surgery when nurses clocked-off at Makarios hospital does not aim to victimise those involved, Health Minister Christos Solomis assured yesterday.
"It is not our intention to punish anybody, but simply to apportion responsibility where it exists," said Solomis.
The potentially contentious findings of the investigation are not expected to be made public until next week.
"We are assessing the facts, and it won't be for another two or three days before the findings are ready," the minister said.
Solomis added that the aim of the inquiry had been to restore order and harmony at state hospitals, not to go rushing in with accusations.
Dr Eleni Theocharous, the hospital's top paediatric surgeon, blew the whistle on nurses last week when they disrupted scheduled surgery, resulting in the children involved having to be sent home.
There were bitter recriminations following the fiasco between doctor, nurses and the civil service union Pasydy.
Nurses declared the doctor persona non grata and refused to work with her anywhere on the island.
Theocharous has said she will resign if the ministry inquiry does not back her position that nurses had no right to cut the operations short.
But the minister warned that mud-slinging only produced more obstacles to efforts to finding an amicable solution.
However, he said he understood the variable and explosive factors which came into play at state hospitals.
"There are pressures of work, misunderstandings, people on leave, emergency operations upsetting the routine, frayed nerves..."
Solomis agreed that all these factors did not sit well with the volatility of the Cypriot character, which he said "is liable to explode without thinking it through first."
 Bishop of Limassol could become a wanted manBy Martin Hellicar
BISHOP Chrysanthos of Limassol could become a wanted man if he fails to return from Athens next week for questioning by visiting British detectives.
Attorney-general Alecos Markides said yesterday British police officers investigating allegations that the Bishop has been involved in financial scams and money laundering would be back on the island on Monday. Chrysanthos flew to Athens earlier in the day.
"If the Bishop does not return to be questioned, and I do not believe that a clergyman would refuse to do so, then a warrant for his arrest would be issued," Markides said.
He said Chrysanthos had not been placed on a stop-list because there was no evidence against him to justify such a court order.
It has been a bad summer for the Bishop, with numerous allegations of misuse of Church funds surfacing soon after British police said they wanted to question him in connection with an alleged attempt to defraud to the tune of $3.7 million.
 Edek and Akel trade barbs on coupBy Elias Hazou
THE CLASH between communist party Akel and socialist Edek over the 1974 coup has reached a new head, the focus this time turning to Health Minister Christos Solomis.
Akel spokesman Nicos Katsourides, speaking to reporters yesterday, repeated allegations that during the coup Solomis had arrested and interrogated a number of persons belonging to the left, including Edek members; and he wondered how Edek could possibly participate in a government alongside the perpetrators of the coup.
Responding to Katsourides' objections, Edek general secretary Marinos Sizopoulos told reporters that his party had submitted to President Clerides reports containing "new evidence" on the coup.
He added that Edek expected Clerides to appoint an independent committee to investigate the coup.
"We did our part," he said, adding that Edek had also collected its own information on Solomis.
Katsourides was quick to retort, saying he wondered whether Edek really expected Clerides to investigate a minister whom he himself had appointed.
For his part, Solomis declined to comment on the accusations of complicity in the 1974 coup. But he asked "all those who accuse me" to remember the days when he had participated in Cyprus' struggle for independence from British colonial rule.
Meanwhile, acting president Spyros Kyprianou has said he intends to re-open the investigation into the events of the coup, adding that he would ask for the Greek government's co-operation. "It is our duty, even today, to ensure that every detail (on the coup) is made public."
The debate on the coup was fuelled on Wednesday during an extraordinary session of the House to commemorate the anniversary of the coup.
 Cyprus team quits Ankara army gamesTHE Cyprus team withdrew from the European Army Pentathlon Games in Ankara yesterday protesting of "unacceptable discrimination" on the part of the host country.
A Justice Ministry announcement said the Turks had refused to fly the Cyprus flag along with those of other competing countries, had failed to include Cyprus in the official list of participants, and had referred to the Cyprus team as "Greek representatives of Southern Cyprus."
 Dud dollars flooding from the northAndy Georgiades
BE EXTRA careful when handling American dollars these days, you don't know where they've been.
The Chief of Police yesterday issued a warning that counterfeit bills are at risk of leaking into circulation from the occupied areas.
A lengthy report issued in the north has revealed that a huge stash of counterfeit money has been injected into circulation by an international ring.
Earlier this week, a well-known doctor and his son were remanded in custody after Turkish Cypriot 'police' caught them in possession of $16,500 worth of dud bills in occupied Nicosia.
'Police' said Dr. Mehmet Yakula had been under surveillance for some time before 15 'police' officers raided his home around 4.30am last Saturday morning.
Also found in his possession were four passports -- one British, one Turkish, and two Turkish Cypriot -- issued in his name but bearing a photograph of someone else, the Turkish press reported yesterday.
In addition to Yakula, a second man, Dr. Mevlut Soyer, was arrested for allegedly smuggling the counterfeit dollars onto the island. Two other, Yusef Akbelli and Osman Tibik, were also remanded in custody in connection with the case.
A fifth arrest was also reported, but no name was given.
Turkish Cypriot 'police' have so far uncovered a total of $18,200 in the course of their investigations.
Police in the free areas yesterday listed the serial numbers on the counterfeit bills are as follows: B 89716269A-AG 29082741 A-AG 29084127 A, AG 29084271 A-B 98716236 A-B 99716262 A.
If you receive a bill bearing one of these numbers, contact police immediately.
 New police chief calls for modern policingBy Athena Karsera
NEW CHIEF of police Andreas Angelides yesterday urged the force to acknowledge the public's demand for modern methods of policing.
"Society," he underlined, "wants a modern policeman, a faithful servant of the law, who promotes democracy; a tireless guard of order, protector of life and property and guardian of ethics and traditional values, who stops every wave of lawlessness."
Angelides was addressing Police Academy graduates.
The chief of police went on to prioritise specific areas of police activity. He underlined the importance of the fight against organised crime and drugs, the prevention of serious traffic accidents and better communication between the police and the public.
Citing recent cases of corruption, he urged cadets to honour their uniform, as this was the only way to win back the public's trust.
Angelides called graduates to use what they had learned in their training and reminded them that "unused knowledge is useless".
He also mentioned that many of the graduates had university degrees; this, he said, proved that policing was a demanding profession but also one respected by society.
Thirty-three female and 30 male police officers made up the graduating class this year, in an Academy of 254 cadets.
 Foreign workers on the riseTHE NUMBER of foreign workers in Cyprus rose by 1,700 in 1996, according to official figures released yesterday.
The Department of Statistics and Research's 1996 labour statistics showed that while 1995 had seen 15,000 foreigners working on the island, that figure had risen to 16,700 in 1996.
Overall, the report said the slowdown in the rate of economic growth had had a negative impact on the labour market. Although employment showed an overall increase of 1 per cent, important sectors of the economy like agriculture, construction and manufacturing, either remained at the 1995 level or showed a decrease.
While the number of foreign workers in Cyprus may have risen, 2,800 Cypriots worked temporarily abroad, the same number as the previous year. And unemployment rose, accounting for 3.1 per cent of the labour force.
One drastic improvement revealed by the figures was the marked decrease in the number of work days lost to strike action -- just 7,700 as opposed to 97,600 in 1995. For the fourth year running, a reduction in the rate of pay rises was also recorded, with increases amounting to 6.1 per cent as opposed to 6.6 per cent in 1995.
 Carpenters discuss how to strikeWOODWORKERS yesterday met under the auspices of worker's unions Sek and Peo to discuss how to continue their strike action.
The woodworkers are protesting at the terms of their collective agreement; they have so far been on selective strike, whereby some continue to work, while others down their tools.
Discussions were held in Nicosia and Limassol to discuss whether to continue with this method of work stoppage or to go on all-out strike, something which would paralyse many sectors of the economy, including the all important construction industry.
The workers were also set to discuss which of them would close if the selective strike continued, and how to maintain contributions to the union strike fund.
Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas has promised personally to involve himself in the search for a compromise over the dispute.
 Central Bank to crack down on post-dated chequesIN AN effort to cut down on the number of bouncing cheques, the Central Bank has decided no longer to accept post-dated cheques. This decision was reached on Wednesday at a meeting held to discuss the problem.
The Central Bank, working with worker and banking organisations and with the participation of Akel deputy George Lillikas, discussed ways of stemming the tide of bouncing cheques, which can account for more than £200 million lost annually.
Lillikas has prepared a bill on the matter, but is willing to put it on hold pending the results of the Central Bank's latest initiative.
Ideas discussed included the creation of an information pool on the details of bounced cheques that could be accessed by all branches. And to make post- dated cheques redundant, a radical change in the system was suggested that would allow customers to cash cheques before the written date.
On the issue of punishing repeat offenders, Lillikas proposed that banks should no longer issue cheque books to anyone found to write dud cheques three times.
© Copyright Cyprus Mail 1998