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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 99-03-14

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

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


March 14, 1999

CONTENTS

  • [01] Lordos threat to sue the government
  • [02] Cassoulides confirms G8 involvement on Cyprus
  • [03] Arsonists suspected of starting massive Larnaca blaze
  • [04] Speculation: a neat little earner for some
  • [05] The lure of public service
  • [06] Turkish fury at Azeri football visit to Cyprus
  • [07] State has no infrastructure for foreign workers
  • [08] Turkish Cypriot boy in critical condition
  • [09] Green woman power against the occupation

  • [01] Lordos threat to sue the government

    By Jean Christou

    LORDOS Holdings has given the government notice of its intention to seek damages for the alleged failure of police to protect its hotel properties against unruly strike pickets.

    A letter addressed to Attorney-general Alecos Markides and Justice Minister Nicos Koshis by the company's lawyers, Andreou Zachariou &amp; Co, states that the company holds the government financially liable for damages incurred at its two Larnaca hotels. The letter was sent on Friday.

    "We are going to sue the government for failure to protect our rights, and we fully expect to win," a company spokesman told The Sunday Mail yesterday.

    He said the hotels had had to employ security guards to keep the peace and protect their properties. "We are claiming every penny of costs from the government," he said. "We mean business every inch of the way."

    Markides said yesterday the letter had not yet been brought to his attention. Koshis could not be reached for comment.

    Around 160 staff at the luxury Golden Bay and Lordos Beach Hotels are entering their 46th day on strike over the dismissal of 73 of their number when sections of the two hotels were turned over to outside contractors.

    Yesterday, the strikers received letters from the company, informing them that they too would lose their jobs if they did not return to work, a union representative said.

    The Lordos spokesman confirmed that the employees had been told they would be replaced if the did not return to work immediately.

    He said the strikers had repeatedly been invited to return to work, and that this was their "last chance".

    A joint statement by Sek and Peo unions said yesterday this was "clearly vindictive".

    "This shows the real intentions concerning the dialogue for solving the differences - which is none other than to destroy it," the unions said.

    "This action in seeking replacements contravenes the constitution and also employment regulations. We charge Lordos with carrying out psychological warfare against the strikers and taking worker relations back to the Middle Ages."

    The bitter dispute has seen pickets attempting to stop strike breakers and suppliers from entering the hotels and incidents allegedly involving damage to property.

    The company has accused the strikers of assault, creating disturbances, public insults and disturbing the peace.

    "The notable absence of satisfactory measures on the part of the police to maintain law and order in my opinion contributed greatly both to the financial damages to my clients and to the protraction and exacerbation of the situation," the lawyers' letter said.

    "This has not only damaged our clients but the Cypriot people by giving the message that people could break the law without penalty and that the only precondition for breaking the law was to have a group of people, over five or ten, who were willing to work as a team in the name of a union."

    Lordos Holdings last month obtained court orders prohibiting unruly behaviour and banning strikers from preventing entry to the hotels.

    Under the orders, the strikers are also prevented from verbally abusing or using rude gestures to anyone passing through the entrances.

    "We have taken the unions and the strikers to court and we fully expect to win there," the company spokesman said.

    He said Friday's letter to Markides and Koshis was a statement of the company's claim, and gave notice of their intended court action against the government.

    He added that several almost identical cases had been won by companies in various European courts.

    March 14, 1999

    [02] Cassoulides confirms G8 involvement on Cyprus

    FOREIGN Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides said yesterday the world's eight most industrialised countries, the G8, would get involved in Cyprus settlement efforts.

    "Not only Western countries will be involved in any new efforts, but also the G8, in which Russia also participates, who will call on the two sides to come to talks," the Cyprus News Agency (CNA) quoted Cassoulides as saying before his departure for a European tour yesterday morning.

    Germany's EU envoy to Cyprus, Detlev Graf zu Rantzau, revealed during his visit to the island last week that his country had "been approached" on the possibility of G8 involvement in settlement efforts. Local newspaper reports have suggested the idea of G8 involvement was first mooted by the US envoy to Cyprus, Thomas Miller.

    Both Miller and Rantzau visited the island last week, but failed to achieve any talks breakthrough.

    The Foreign Minister said the diplomatic initiative to break the protracted settlement talks deadlock was expected after the April elections in Turkey. He said that, as in the past, the invitation to face-to-face talks between the Greek and Turkish Cypriot sides would come from UN Secretary general Kofi Annan and the agenda for the talks would be based on UN resolutions.

    He said he expected the EU fully to back peace efforts expected after April. "I consider EU support for the UN Secretary general's good offices mission to be a given fact, and I expect the EU to give its support to efforts for a possible diplomatic effort aiming at the resumption of negotiations after the elections in Turkey," he said.

    Cassoulides' first stop on his second European tour this year will be Germany. He then visits Austria and Belgium. The Foreign Minister is scheduled to meet his counterparts in these countries and also have contacts with other officials.

    March 14, 1999

    [03] Arsonists suspected of starting massive Larnaca blaze

    By Martin Hellicar

    ARSONISTS may have been behind a massive blaze which endangered the lives of four people in Larnaca in the early hours yesterday, police said.

    Six fire engines were needed to tackle a fire which broke out at around 2.45am following an explosion in the Vitsiani clothing shop on the ground floor of a four storey block of flats on Ermou street. The heat and smoke from the blaze, which completely gutted the shop, was such that people in apartments above the shop had to be evacuated by firemen.

    An adjoining shop and a dental and doctor's practice on the first floor were also affected by the fire, which caused an estimated £300,000 worth of damage to the Vitsiani boutique.

    Police said initial indications were that the fire had been started deliberately.

    In Limassol meanwhile, a tavern owner was arrested on suspicion of involvement in a blaze which gutted his own establishment in the early hours yesterday.

    Police said the fire at the Handres tavern on Makedonas street broke out at just before 3am and was spotted by a police patrol that happened to be in the area.

    After the fire brigade put out the blaze, police forensic experts found evidence to suggest it had been no accident: the back door to the tavern had been forced. Police said indications were that whisky was used to start the fire.

    Later in the day, the 47-year-old manager of the Handres tavern was arrested by police and held for questioning.

    March 14, 1999

    [04] Speculation: a neat little earner for some

    By Hamza Hendawi

    IT WAS EARLY in the afternoon of Thursday February 11 when Alexandros Hadjioannis heard the news that share prices had risen by more than five per cent earlier in the day. Excited by the news and eager to see the action for himself, he took the next day off from his £500-a-month bank job to go to the Cyprus Stock Exchange.

    Fighting for space in the small area designated for investors and onlookers on the bourse's floor, Hadjioannis saw for himself the shares taking a 4.60 per cent tumble. He remained unperturbed.

    "I have made a profit of 6,000 pounds since I began to play the market in January," Alexandros Hadjioannis, who did not want his real name published, told The Sunday Mail.

    "Of this, 3,000 pounds were made on Popular Bank warrants alone."

    Hadjioannis, 25 and single, is one of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of Cypriots of all ages and backgrounds who decided to forfeit the safety of a deposit account or the relative security which comes with real estate for the high-stakes of equities.

    Lured by the prospect of a quick profit and encouraged by the leaps and bounds of a market small enough to be immune from world upheavals, the island's army of local Gordon Geckos and George Soroses surrendered to brokers those precious few thousands they'd had stashed away at a bank for years for a meagre return of 6.5 per cent.

    Like Hadjioannis, they put their faith in market forces and brokers who came recommended by friends and relatives, and sat pretty waiting for the quick profit to fill their wallets.

    It happened.

    The market has so far this year risen by a dizzying 30 per cent, and analysts say that, barring unexpected political developments, share prices will appreciate by 50 per cent or more by the end of the year.

    Beside the pure financial gain, some of the market's newcomers may share Hadjioannis' motive for playing the bourse: a better and more exciting lifestyle.

    "So far this year, I have been to Athens, London and New York," he boasted. "I am now able to do the things I could not possibly do on 500 pounds a month. I even lost 200 pounds gambling in an Athens casino and that is OK too."

    Still, with this one-off binge out of his system, he has set a 1999 goal of £10,000 profit after expenses. If his track record for financial prudence is anything to go by, the target may be within reach.

    From primary school and through the years to undergraduate study at an English university, Hadjioannis was every bank manager's dream.

    "I showed up on Mondays at school with more money than most of the other kids to deposit in my savings account. I often gave my teachers five pounds or more each time," he said, referring to a saving scheme that is still implemented for children at state schools.

    "One Christmas about 15 years ago I got 180 pounds from relatives. What was I supposed to do with all this money but save it, or at least most of it," he confided during an interview at his favourite Le Café on Makarios Avenue ("You see some amazing babes here," he said).

    "I started off in the market with my childhood's savings. All in all, I had close to 6,000 pounds in my co-operative deposit account."

    Hadjioannis considerably raised the stakes, however, when he took his money to a bank and asked for a 'margin' or an investor's account. In return for his £6,000, he was given an overdraft of £20,000, provided he used the money only to buy shares.

    "When the value of your shares drops below 14,000 pounds, the bank sells the shares without consulting you to safeguard their money," he said. "They charge you eight per cent for the money you use, you are charged one per cent whenever you buy shares and two per cent every year on the money you don't use from the overdraft.

    "Additionally, every time you buy shares you pay the broker 0.35 per cent and the stock market 0.15 per cent."

    Hadjioannis agrees that investing through a margin account involves a fairly high risk and that he is paying too much interest to the bank, but he has no plans to call it quits any time soon.

    The margin accounts, market traders say, primarily cater for speculators, and require that their holders remain abreast of market trends and in constant contact with their brokers.

    "They help increase liquidity in the market, but people must be careful and should not feel under pressure to trade every day or every other day," said John Pitsillos, an investment analyst at Nicosia's Share Link Securities.

    Others have stronger views on margin accounts, offered by banks and brokerages on the island with varying degrees of caution.

    "People cannot afford the margin accounts," declared Nicos Efrem, a 16-year veteran of the market whose brokerage is named after him. "It is nonsense and they are very expensive."

    But listen to other traders and you will be excused for thinking that Efrem might be a bit of a party pooper.

    "We are living a new era in the Cyprus Stock Exchange," enthused Louis Clappas, of Louis Clappas Brokerage House. "The market is up by 30 per cent and will go much higher by the end of the year," said Clappas, who heads the brokers' association. "Many companies are yet to announce their 1998 results and we may also witness the first privatisation in 1999."

    So, what will be first on the privatisation bloc, Mr. Clappas?

    "That will be CyTA. The company is worth £1 billion and, if they list 50 per cent of it, that will be £500 million worth of stocks."

    A broker's dream?

    March 14, 1999

    [05] The lure of public service

    By Anthony O. Miller

    FEW SIRENS of ancient Greece ever sang more seductively than the Cyprus civil service, which has so bewitched the island's young that they prefer - two to one - a secure public sector job after leaving school, to risking work in the private sector.

    A November 1998 Cyprus College poll showed 61 per cent of Cyprus school leavers preferred a public service job, while 34 per cent preferred work in the private sector.

    "The public sector offers them the best salaries," notably at entry level, said Dr Pambos Papageorgiou, director of social and political research at Cyprus College's Centre of Applied Research. "Also it is rated first in terms of job security."

    In the poll, 'High School Leavers and the Labour Market Dilemma', students rated the public sector "very low" in career opportunities and job satisfaction, and only "average" in conditions of work, compared to the private sector.

    But the poll, funded by the Bank of Cyprus, showed school leavers put pay and security "at the top of the list" of priorities, so chose to ignore the fact that the public sector offers no career opportunities or job satisfaction, Papageorgiou said.

    In Greece, it's just the reverse, he noted: "School leavers there want to be employed in the private sector because, despite the very good job security, the salaries are very low in the public sector in Greece."

    "But in Cyprus, because the public sector offers both job security and high salaries, pupils want to be employed in the public sector," he said. (See box for latest Finance Ministry comparisons of public versus private sector salaries.)

    Ministry data for 1997 indicates that 36,229 Cypriots worked for the central government that year, and another 12,074 for semi-governmental organisations or municipalities. This means that, of a total workforce of 305,700 people, 48,303, or 16 per cent, worked in the public sector.

    Pasydy, the powerful civil service union, represented 13,000 of the highest- paid, white-collar civil servants, according to Glafcos Hadjipetrou, Pasydy general secretary. The rest belonged to Sek and Peo, besides the 4,000 in the teachers' union, Poed,

    Even among the 83 per cent of final year students who hoped to go on to university (70 per cent actually do), the lure of public service was so strong that a whopping 23 per cent said teaching was their first career choice - "basically because it is public sector employment... pays good and is regarded as not so demanding - a rather pleasing type of employment," Papageorgiou said.

    "Conditions are so good as far as teachers' salaries and vacations are concerned, that this attracts the best students. Most of them would have had a better career elsewhere, (especially) those with managerial abilities, " he said.

    A major lure for university graduates is public service entry pay. It is about £760 per month, Papageorgiou said, versus only £400-£450 per month in the private sector.

    Then there is the free medical care: public service employees get it in all public hospitals and clinics - including surgery (in Cyprus or overseas), prescriptions, private rooms (even if paying patients have to be evicted).

    Other benefits include working hours. "They are much better in the public sector, because they work only one afternoon per week (Thursday), whereas most private sector employees work four afternoons a week," Papageorgiou noted.

    Civil servants are supposed to work an average of 38 hours per week, from 7.30-8am to 2.30pm four days per week, and an extra three hours - from 3pm to 6pm - on Thursdays in the winter. In July and August, the extra Thursday hours are dropped.

    In the private sector, hours are what the employer sets. The Finance Ministry's Department of Statistics said the weekly average in the private sector was closer to 40 hours per week.

    The "enormous difference" in salaries may level out later for college graduates, as some "can have a very successful career in the private sector, and at some point will get more money than their equivalent in the public sector," Papageorgiou said.

    "But initially, the difference is so huge in the public sector that we have a lot of political pressure and a lot of use of party mechanisms to procure employment in the public sector."

    Parents pressure "their local politicians to secure employment for their sons and daughters in the public sector," he said, because the "whole package is too good to ignore... and is regarded as a type of 'supplement'... a type of prize to be won."

    "And this creates many problems for our political system, and makes the lives of deputies very difficult, because they are under constant pressure from voters for favouritism to secure work in the public sector for their sons and daughters," Papageorgiou said.

    "This is a social problem... a very serious problem for Cyprus, because it creates a sense that there is no equality of opportunity, that fairness is not applied, that society somehow fails in terms of moral values," he said.

    Intercollege Professor Andreas Theophanous deplores this "absence of meritocracy, the nepotism" of the public sector. "If we do not overcome the problem of nepotism, there will be a devastating blow in the country in the long run," he warned.

    "Meritocracy is not only a matter of social justice; it's also a matter of survival. If you don't put the best person where he should be, I think something is not going to be done" as well as it might, Theophanous said.

    "Many times in the civil service and the broad public sector, when you have openings... the 'rules of the game' preclude people from getting there. There is a strong human factor that prevents people from entering this 'closed shop'. It's about time it is replaced here in Cyprus," Theophanous said.

    "I am not particularly happy when I see the government deciding to appoint (someone to a job) and the Union of the Civil Servants (Pasydy) comes and says: 'Well, you cannot do that, because you have to pick somebody from us.' That cannot go on," Theophanous said. "I think the labour market should undergo some changes to make it more open to competition," he added.

    "It is very unpleasant, even for Members of Parliament. They are always under pressure, and in a way they realise... they are doing something bad. They are not very much at ease with their conscience when they do that, and they would like to stop," Papageorgiou said.

    "And many parents would like this to stop, because parents who contact their member of Parliament to apply favouritism say: 'I don't like to do that, but others do that, so I do that as a defensive measure,'" Papageorgiou said.

    This pressure on politicians should stop, he added, "but who's going to take the initiative? Our politicians believe there is some cost in taking drastic measures."

    "I think the circle will be broken for fiscal reasons," he said. "We are running a huge public sector deficit. And I think at some point people will realise that, apart from moral reasons, there are practical and economic reasons to create a world around a modern civil service that has nothing to do with favouritism and political intervention."

    Papageorgiou suggested small changes, like reducing entry level college graduates' pay to £500-£600 per month from £760, closer to the private sector's £400-£500 per month. (Both he and Theophanous, for different reasons, opposed drastic cuts to public service salaries. They preferred lowering the starting wage, and attracting higher paid workers.)

    Papageorgiou also suggested abolishing the oral exams that university graduates take (along with written exams, in some cases) and "institutionalising a written exam and some form of secrecy," such as omitting applicants' names and using only numbers to identify them.

    The current oral exam is a "window of opportunity" for favouritism, Papageorgiou said, because "when they want to hire somebody, they will give him high marks in the oral examination." For non-university degree posts, the civil service has abolished oral exams, he said, and relies solely on a written exam.

    Theophanous said reducing the power of Pasydy and the other unions required either a crisis or strong political will: "In times of recession, the power of the unions diminishes. In Cyprus, during the 'economic miracle' we didn't have recession. You had growth, so our unions got certain things," he said.

    "These things will be reassessed and re-examined when there is a problem... Cyprus has begun to face the public deficit and debt problems... These problems are still manageable. But if we don't change now, we will see worse and worse," he said.

    "Why not make it the responsibility of the political leadership to adopt changes right now, before things get worse," he asked. "We don't have to wait for things to get worse before we change."

    March 14, 1999

    [06] Turkish fury at Azeri football visit to Cyprus

    TURKEY'S embassy in Baku has protested Azerbaijan's decision to send its national football team to train in Cyprus.

    Turgut Er, press secretary of the Turkish embassy, said the visit of the team to Cyprus did not "meet Turkey's interests".

    He told an Azeri newspaper that 'Greek Cyprus' accommodated bases of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia.

    He asked how Azerbaijan would react if the Turkish national team were to be trained in Nagorno Karabakh or Armenia. Armenia and Turkic Azerbaijan went to war over the enclave of Nagorno Karabakh, seized by native Armenian separatists but lying deep in Azeri territory.

    The Turkish official also referred to the presence in Cyprus of Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan at the same time as the Azeri team last week.

    The newspaper said the Turkish embassy had warned about he "inexpedience of the visit from the security point of view".

    The team arrived on the island on March 2 for a 12-day training session to prepare for Euro 2000 qualifiers.

    "At first glance, there is nothing strange in this visit," the paper said.

    "But from the point of view of Turkish-Azerbaijani friendship it would not be considered natural".

    The Association of Football Federations of Azerbaijan (AFFA) said that a security guarantee had been given for the visit when the invitation had been issued from Cyprus.

    Er said that, when the information about the team's visit to Cyprus emerged, AFFA received an invitation from the 'TRNC' proposing to hold a training session in the occupied areas, "but AFFA officials did not reply".

    March 14, 1999

    [07] State has no infrastructure for foreign workers

    By Jean Christou

    THE STATE has not taken into consideration the infrastructure needed to employ large numbers of migrant workers, was the message that emerged from the first annual general meeting of the Immigrant Support Group (ISAG) in Nicosia yesterday.

    "I believe the state looks at the phenomenon as a necessary evil, essentially undesirable, but useful from an economical and financial point of views," said ISAG's Doros Polycarpou.

    "No support services have been set up. Nothing is offered to these people to help them become a part of society. They are only hands to do work. There is a lack of maturity in our society as to how we look at people of other origins."

    During yesterday's meeting, the group looked back over the past 12 months and listed, along with its achievements, the areas where it as an organisation had fallen short.

    The biggest problems being faced by ISAG, Polycarpou said, were a lack of personnel and resources to respond to what he termed "such an extensive problem".

    ISAG's shortcomings on the legal side and on the provisions of international conventions were also evident, according to Polycarpou.

    "This made it difficult for us to know where the violations had been, and there were also gaps in our knowledge of court proceedings," he said.

    Citing the case of the "shipwrecked prisoners" of Limassol's Pefkos Hotel, Polycarpou said this was a typical example "of the madness in which we deal with these situations".

    "To date, no one from the government has clarified what the situation is. There was a total lack of policy. The state had no idea what to do," he said.

    He said pregnant women and children had been detained without any special provisions as to their health and education.

    The same criteria applied in the case of those from the Pefkos who had been moved to the Larnaca detention cells where they were beaten by police during a riot late last year, Polycarpou said.

    "The actions of the state aimed merely at getting rid of these people," he added.

    The Pefkos immigrants are part of a group of over 100 who arrived on the island's shores in June of last year. Some have been given political asylum and many were deported, but several are still at the Pefkos almost a year later.

    ISAG works closely with the Welfare department and with non-governmental organisations and hopes to expand this co-operation in the future.

    Its main aim is to set up a support centre for immigrants and the group has already had talks with Nicosia Municipality and the government, as well as with representatives of the various migrant groups.

    March 14, 1999

    [08] Turkish Cypriot boy in critical condition

    THE CONDITION of a five-year-old Turkish Cypriot boy rushed over from the north in a comatose condition a week ago has deteriorated, Makarios hospital doctors said yesterday afternoon.

    The medics said Ali Osgan Tsavusoglou was still breathing with the help of a ventilator and now needed further system support to keep his vital functions going.

    Ali was admitted to the Nicosia hospital last Sunday after he suffered an epileptic fit and went into a coma following an operation to have his tonsils removed at a hospital in occupied Nicosia.

    Emergency medical cases from the north are often treated at government hospitals.

    March 14, 1999

    [09] Green woman power against the occupation

    FEMALE greens yesterday launched a campaign aimed at mobilising local and European 'woman power' to end the Turkish occupation and the influx of Turkish settlers to the north.

    The women members of the minority Green party were down at the Ledra Palace checkpoint collecting signatures for a petition calling for "the restoration of human rights" and an end to "Turkey's policy of ethnic cleansing" in Cyprus.

    The environmentalists plan to collect signatures for their petition till the end of the month and then hand it to female European politicians.

    "We are sure of the sensitivity of civilised persons, especially women, in matters relating to the respect and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms and this is why we are optimistic of your positive reaction to this appeal," the petition reads. Party member Antonia Theodosiou said the petition idea had been launched to coincide with International Women's Day on March 8.

    The Ledra Palace checkpoint in Nicosia has been a regular haunt for female anti-occupation activists of a different kind for over two years. Black- clad and mostly elderly relatives of the missing have been camped at the crossing point every weekend campaigning to stop tourists going over to the north for day trips.

    © Copyright Cyprus Mail 1999

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