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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-02-04

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cynews.com/>


Thursday, February 04, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Strikes will bankrupt Cyprus Airways, Cabinet warns
  • [02] Turks release Greek Cypriots in 'cars for men' deal
  • [03] Port workers step up protests
  • [04] Hotel strike enters fifth day - management says unaffected
  • [05] Confusion over British exercise plans
  • [06] Survey reveals gloomy public mood
  • [07] Lyssarides 'willing to undertake EU mission'
  • [08] Police say they catch arsonists in the act

  • [01] Strikes will bankrupt Cyprus Airways, Cabinet warns

    By Charlie Charalambous

    CYPRUS Airways will collapse in financial ruin if it continues on a crash course of rising labour costs and disruptive strikes, the Cabinet warned yesterday.

    Still smarting from its failure to sell 10 per cent of its controlling share in the company and from recent strike action, the government told the airline to tighten its belt or face bankruptcy.

    "We express our strong concern about the long-term survival of the company because of its various problems and the continuing increase in labour costs, " said yesterday's Cabinet announcement.

    The future of CY was top of the agenda at the Cabinet meeting, which spelt out the bleak forecast in the clearest terms possible.

    "If unions and management do not enter into a constructive dialogue based on the renewal of the collective agreement and the strategic plan the company will be driven to financial ruin."

    Among the dire warnings was a references to job losses if the situation continued unchecked.

    "We welcome the announcement and we are ready to talk at any time. We are willing to put everything on the table and listen to the union demands," CY spokesman Tassos Angelis told the Cyprus Mail yesterday.

    Industry experts say CY will not last four years if the present regime continues.

    The government's pessimistic view of the national carrier's survival follows last week's four-hour strike by CY unions over pay demands.

    At present, there is no mediation process and unions have been warned against taking any further action which would irreparably damage the company.

    Delays in restructuring the company - essential to make it more competitive at all levels - are also a sore point with the government.

    And the much-trumpeted strategic plan has yet to be even discussed by the management and unions.

    "There are issues which need to be discussed, which will make the company viable and competitive. We don't want to impose anything," said Angelis.

    Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou has been given the unenviable task of getting both sides round the table to thrash out the painful cost- cutting decisions that need to be made.

    "The aim is to go forward with changes that will enable the company to survive," said government spokesman Christos Stylianides.

    A wage freeze, voluntary redundancy scheme, management streamlining and disbanding unprofitable routes are all issues which must be resolved.

    Although CY announced profits of £5 million for 1998, following two years of successive losses, the government insists there is much that remains to be done.

    Unions are demanding pay increases as part of the new collective agreement, but the company is reluctant to bloat a wage bill which already accounts for 35 per cent of total expenditure.

    Moreover, the government is no mood to throw more money at the ailing carrier, whose only profit-making routes - London and Athens - are protected, but could soon face competition in the preparation for EU membership.

    Sister company Eurocypria and Duty Free sales are the major reasons for CY's healthy balance last year. And a government itching to sell its unwanted shares is aware that the airline is way behind the competition.

    Last Friday, the government conceded that it could not offload 10 per cent of its 80 per cent shareholding because of what it called "limited interest".

    Despite the nominal value of the shares, set at 50 cents, institutional investors stayed away, leaving the five million available shares mostly unsold.

    Before the share fiasco, Finance Minister Christodoulos Christodoulou said the government would eventually be happy to sell 50 per cent of its shareholding.

    Thursday, February 04, 1999

    [02] Turks release Greek Cypriots in 'cars for men' deal

    TWO GREEK Cypriots held in the north since last week were yesterday released to return home in a "cars for men" deal.

    Unficyp spokesperson Sarah Russell said Dinos Anastasiou and Georgios Ioannou returned to the government-controlled areas via the Ledra Palace check-point in Nicosia at 1.30pm yesterday. Russell said the UN had, in co- operation with both sides, arranged for the two men to be released at the same time as cars impounded on both sides of the divide were exchanged.

    These cars belonged to people apprehended in the past after straying across the dividing line from both sides.

    "When people are caught on either side their cars are impounded. The owners want their cars back so we arranged for the cars to be exchanged," Russell said.

    Six cars went north and three cars came south, the spokesperson said. Some of the vehicles had been missing since the Summer.

    Kakopetria villager Anastasiou, 50, was apprehended by the Turks in the Morphou buffer zone area while out collecting wild asparagus on Sunday.

    Hospital worker Ioannou, 47, from the Nicosia suburb of Engomi, had been held since last Wednesday when he wandered across the green line in Ayios Pavlos, Nicosia, apparently in a state of drunkenness.

    The UN had visited the Greek Cypriots during their detention and had found them to be in good health.

    Both men had been brought up before military 'courts' in the north and been remanded for "illegal entry into a military zone."

    Thursday, February 04, 1999

    [03] Port workers step up protests

    By Athena Karsera

    LARNACA port workers yesterday stepped up their industrial action on the third day of an indefinite strike in protest at their uncertain future. Unions, however, expressed hope for a solution after initial government responses.

    The 105 workers and 45 stevedores yesterday made good on an earlier threat to block the roundabout outside the harbour for periods of 15 minutes between 9 and 11am.

    Enjoying the backing of the Larnaca Harbour Stevedores Association as well as of major unions Sek Peo and Deok, protestors continued to block the entrance to the harbour with loading machinery for the second day running.

    Without giving further details, union representatives yesterday said that more measures would follow.

    They did, however, confirm receipt of a fax from Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas, which they said they would study, and act in accordance with its contents.

    They said the minister's response was seen as positive, and hoped that the issue would be resolved soon, because "a solution depends on them (the government) and not on us."

    Meanwhile, Communications Minister Leontios Ierodiaconou yesterday said that a House committee would soon be meeting to address the issue.

    Speaking after a meeting of the Council of Ministers, Ierodiaconou said the Cabinet had approved a proposal eight months ago that would transform the port into a tourist harbour, providing more work for dockers.

    The harbour workers, who complain of vast underemployment, are protesting a delay in voluntary redundancy packages for those willing to leave their posts.

    They also want the implementation of a Development Committee decision to modernise the harbour, which would guarantee workers and stevedores another two to four years of employment. More working hours are also being demanded.

    Thursday, February 04, 1999

    [04] Hotel strike enters fifth day - management says unaffected

    STAFF at two Larnaca hotels yesterday entered their fifth day of strike action in protest at the dismissal of 73 workers.

    The 30 to 40 strikers yesterday - as on previous days - picketed the Golden Bay and Lordos Beach hotels.

    A third hotel affected by the dismissals, the Golden Coast, has been closed for the winter season.

    At a press conference at the Golden Bay yesterday, Constantinos Lordos, the president of Lordos Holdings, which owns the two hotels, said management was entirely within its rights to dismiss the workers - a move made necessary by steady losses in recent years at the hotels, amounting to more then £2.5 million.

    He said the decision to contract out work to outside companies in the three departments affected had been necessary to avoid further losses. This, he explained, had resulted in dismissals in the house-keeping, bakery and gym sections of each hotel.

    Lordos repeated that the day-to-running of the hotels had not in any way been affected by the strike.

    The Cyprus Hotels Association yesterday condemned the strike, saying hotels had to be allowed to hand over sections to the outside companies in order to remain competitive.

    Unions, meanwhile, yesterday remained adamant that the strike would continue until the sacked workers were reinstated.

    They also announced a possible meeting of hotel worker representatives from all over Cyprus today.

    Thursday, February 04, 1999

    [05] Confusion over British exercise plans

    By Anthony O. Miller

    CONFUSION reigned yesterday, both on the British Bases as to where troops would hold their war games next week - in the Akamas or a National Guard firing range - and among environmentalists, who did not know what, if any, protests to stage if the Akamas got the nod.

    The National Guard on Monday said it would allow British forces use its Kalochorio firing range for live-fire drills, as a compromise to using the environmentally sensitive Akamas Peninsula.

    SBA Spokesman Rob Need said yesterday that next week's planned Akamas war games would not use any live ammunition. One reason, he said, was because the signs warning of its impending use were ripped down in early January by people protesting against the exercises being staged then, and the signs have not since been replaced.

    Under the 1960 Treaty of Establishment, which ended Cyprus' British colonial status, SBA troops have a right to use Cyprus Republic territory for war games for a few days each year. To environmentalists's dismay, they exercise that right in the ecologically-sensitive Akamas, for lack of a better site.

    Despite the looming February 9 date for the drills, as of yesterday neither the British High Commission nor Sovereign Base Area (SBA) authorities had received the Cyprus government OK to use the Kalochorio firing range as an Akamas substitute, British spokesmen said.

    In fact, both High Commission Spokesman Piers Cazalet and SBA Spokesman Captain Jon Brown said they first learned in Tuesday's Cyprus Mail that the Defence Ministry was even considering SBA use of the Kalochorio range.

    "It's interesting to see the material that's appeared in the press," Cazalet said yesterday, "but we'd be delighted to hear it from the horse's mouth."

    "We have read in the press what you have written, which was quite informative," Brown echoed. "Basically, we have had no formal offer of the use of Kalochorio."

    "We've spent the last couple of years going around this course, and things have not progressed very far," Cazalet said. "We're having a meeting later this week with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs... Maybe our discussions with the Ministry later this week will be rapidly productive," he added.

    "As far as I am aware - and this is through the press - the government and the National Guard have been having discussions. There has been no formal offering of the Kalochorio range to the British Forces Cyprus," Brown said.

    "All we've said all along is: Provided we have an area where we can train, that meets the standards we require, we are happy not to carry out live- firing on the Akamas... we are happy to leave the Akamas alone," Brown said.

    Defence Minister Yiannakis Chrysostomis said on Monday the National Guard would this week hand the Foreign Ministry the proposal to let SBA troops use the Kalochorio range - a proposition, he noted, the Council of Ministers had approved.

    Brown said British High Commission Defence Attaché Colonel Crichton Wakelin was discussing with his superiors the Kalochorio "offer," and was seeking "clarification" of it.

    Cazalet said he did not know what type of protests to expect from environmentalists, who seriously disrupted the last British exercises in the Akamas. "They haven't wound things up quite as much as they did in January, so I don't know what to expect."

    Greens Party leader George Perdikis said yesterday the island's environmentalists were meeting last night to plan any protests they might mount against the use of the Akamas, if the Kalochorio range was not approved in time for next week's exercises.

    Protests by environmentalists in early January, contributed to an SBA decision to cut from three days to one the non-live-fire war games in the Akamas, and to cut from 300 to 100 the number of troops involved in the drills.

    SBA authorities at the time used giant military troop helicopters, instead of troop trucks, to transport the British forces into the Akamas, to avoid confrontation with the massed protesters.

    Protestors in early January destroyed signs, fencing and damaged portable toilet units in their campaign to stop the Akamas exercises from going ahead. The SBA threatened to seek compensation for some £50,000 in damage to the British property.

    Thursday, February 04, 1999

    [06] Survey reveals gloomy public mood

    By Martin Hellicar

    CYPRIOTS are increasingly pessimistic about the prospects for a swift Cyprus settlement and downhearted about the economy, a nationwide survey has shown.

    The Cyprus Barometer survey, whose findings were released yesterday, also shows that Cypriots are divided about the island's EU accession prospects but are mostly convinced that entry to the 15-member block would be good news.

    Concerns over crime, corruption in high places and the standing of the Church are growing, the poll suggests.

    The wide-ranging survey, conducted by RAI consultants for the Popular Bank, also shows that most Cypriots do not back government plans to liberalise interest rates.

    A total of 1,005 people between the ages of 18 and 75 were asked a series of questions on Cyprus and the EU, the economy and social issues in a survey conducted between November 27 and December 18 last year. Similar studies were commissioned by the bank in 1996 and 1997.

    The 1998 survey reveals a clear pattern of growing pessimism about the prospects for a Cyprus settlement within the next two years. Comparing 1998 Barometer results with those of 1997 shows a significant drop in the number of people who see prospects for a solution as improved.

    Almost half of those polled said the situation was stagnant, 32 per cent said prospects were better and 19 per cent said chances of a solution were reduced. In 1997, only a third saw the situation as stagnant, fully half saw prospects as improved and only 11 per cent thought chances were reduced.

    Andreas Petrides, of RAI consultants, noted that the survey was completed before President Clerides announced his decision not to bring the S-300s to Cyprus. The decision to order the missiles from Russia had heightened tensions on the island, with Turkey threatening to strike the S-300s if they arrived.

    On the economic front, the survey showed most people did not believe 1998 had been a good year compared to 1997. An increased number of people also believe the outlook is bleak, the study suggests.

    Asked how they saw economic performance in 1998 compared to 1997, 41 per cent of those polled said things had taken a turn for the worse, 31 per cent said they saw no change and only 23 per cent believed there had been an improvement.

    Only about a fifth of those questioned said their personal financial situation had improved in 1998. About a third said their personal finances had worsened while half of those polled said nothing had changed compared to the previous year.

    Looking ahead to 1999, a third of respondents said things would get worse and only 19 per cent said there would be upturn.

    The 1997 survey had produced far more optimistic results. Only a quarter had said prospects were bleak and almost a third saw a rosy financial future.

    Another indication of growing pessimism is that three-quarters of those polled said they thought the gulf between rich and poor was set to grow in coming years. In 1997, only two thirds of those questioned felt this would be the trend.

    Over half of those questioned (55 per cent) blamed "uncertainty due to the Cyprus problem" as the principal reason for the poor economic situation.

    Forty-five per cent of Cypriots believe cutting the state wage bill would be a good way to reduce government spending, the poll suggests.

    The survey results show Cypriots remain divided about the island's prospects for joining the EU.

    Forty-seven per cent of those questioned said accession prospects were good. Fifty-one per cent said Cyprus would have problems joining the 15- member block and half of these (25 per cent of the total) said a Cyprus settlement would be necessary before accession. A similar pattern was revealed by the 1997 survey.

    Even though almost three-quarters of those questioned said not enough information was available on what EU accession would mean for Cyprus, most Cypriots (65 per cent of those polled) believe joining the EU would be beneficial.

    The study also notes a shift in people's perception of what the benefits of accession would be. In 1997, 40 per cent of those questioned said economic development would be the greatest benefit, with increased security second (garnering 27 per cent). But the 1998 study showed that security (at 36 per cent) had overtaken economic development (at 26 per cent) as the perceived greatest benefit of accession.

    Cyprus began EU accession talks last March and is, according to official statements, well on course for entry.

    Crime has leapfrogged drugs as the social problem causing most concern, the poll shows. In 1997, when people were asked to name the island's biggest social malaises (excluding the Cyprus problem) 74 per cent said drugs, 60 per cent said foreign workers and 53 per cent said crime. The top three of perceived social ills was the same for 1998, but in a different order. Crime was top (on 67 per cent), drugs second (66 per cent) and foreign workers third (58 per cent).

    1998 saw the resurgence of gangland killings, with four deaths.

    In a year when Interior Minister Dinos Michaelides was cleared of corruption charges and the director of the Water development department, Lakis Christodoulou, jailed for abuse of authority, the survey also shows 95 per cent of people believe Cyprus faces a serious corruption problem.

    The poll also indicates that 72 per cent of Cypriots believe the state fails properly to investigate and punish corrupt officials.

    Over three-quarters of those polled said the Church was in crisis. The Church has had a bad year, with former Bishop Chrysanthos of Limassol suspended over alleged involvement in financial scams in Cyprus and abroad and the race to find his successor marred the Paphos Bishop's sordid allegations against the elderly mentor of one of the candidates.

    The survey also indicates poor support for government plans to liberalise interest rates. A relevant bill was tabled before the House last week. But the poll showed that 54 per cent of the population oppose interest rate liberalisation and an identical proportion believe such liberalisation would have detrimental effects.

    Thursday, February 04, 1999

    [07] Lyssarides 'willing to undertake EU mission'

    SOCIALIST Edek leader Vassos Lyssarides said yesterday he was prepared to undertake any mission to promote Cyprus' EU accession course.

    Lyssarides, who recently quit the government coalition over President Glafcos Clerides' decision not to deploy the S-300 missiles, was speaking after a meeting with Clerides about EU accession.

    He said that thoughts as to what he could do were under consideration and that the president could also approach other party leaders in this way.

    His contribution would be a matter of making use of his contacts, Lyssarides said, adding he had told Clerides all about the contacts he had held at the recent European Socialist Convention in Vienna.

    "I always was and am at the government's disposal to be used for the good of the national issue and issues relating to the national issue," he vowed.

    Asked about the recent débâcle surrounding the visit to Cyprus of British representative Sir David Hannay, Lyssarides said that after Hannay's statements, he expected some clarification from Britain as to its exact position on Cyprus. A confederal solution, to which Hannay alluded, was something which could never happen, Lyssarides added.

    Asked about Hannay's future as Britain's Cyprus representative, Lyssarides said he hoped it would be "short".

    Thursday, February 04, 1999

    [08] Police say they catch arsonists in the act

    TWO LIMASSOL men were remanded for five days yesterday after police allegedly caught them red-handed torching a Mazda car.

    Savvas Kallis, 26, and Stavros Demosthenos, 22, were remanded in custody by a Limassol district court after a police patrol intervened at 3.10am earlier in the day.

    The two were seen setting fire to a £7,000 Mazda owned by 40-year-old Yiannakis Christoforou.

    Kallis, a Limassol chef, was caught by police trying to flee the scene. Demosthenos got away in a Range Rover but was later arrested at his home.

    Police told the court that the suspects' clothes reeked of petrol and that a container was found near the car.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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