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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 00-09-21

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

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


Thursday, September 21, 2000

CONTENTS

  • [01] Tourist misery as pilots strike
  • [02] Bitterness on the picket line
  • [03] Ambulance worker faces sanction after refusing to drive patient
  • [04] Accused doctor could face prosecution despite cash return deal
  • [05] Energy plans as fuel crisis bites
  • [06] Taxis threaten strike if petrol prices rise again
  • [07] Future looks bleak for weary market

  • [01] Tourist misery as pilots strike

    By Martin Hellicar

    SIX flights were grounded and hundreds of passengers stranded yesterday as Eurocypria pilots came out on strike in protest at the “theft” of their promotion prospects.

    Cyprus Airways (CY) rushed to find alternative flights or hotel accommodation for the 1,700 travellers affected by the 24-hour strike by their charter flight subsidiary’s pilots.

    The strike action began at 4.30am yesterday and was set to continue till 4.30am today. Eurocypria ground staff and cabin crews came out on strike in sympathy with their pilot colleagues.

    The striking pilots – represented by Eurocypria-Sek – threatened more strike action if management did not shut the door on CY pilots taking up Captain positions within the charter subsidiary.

    Union man Alecos Tasouris vowed that strikers would fight “till the bitter end” and called on the government to intervene to bar CY pilots from “stealing” their promotions.

    The dispute that led to yesterday’s industrial action is an old one.

    Eurocypria pilots accuse the national carrier’s management of pandering to CY pilots – represented by Pasipy and Cynika - by allowing them to take up Eurocypria captain posts. Eurocypria pilots cannot get promotions in CY.

    Yesterday’s strike action was sparked by a recent CY decision to again offer a number of Eurocypria captain posts to CY pilots.

    A year ago, an arbitration board ruled that only Eurocypria pilots could take up captain posts within the charter subsidiary.

    The striking pilots insist that this arbitration should be final. But CY management say they want to achieve a consensus agreement on the thorny issue between all pilots.

    CY spokesman Tassos Angelis charged the Eurocypria pilots with torpedoing an ongoing effort to find secure agreement between Pasipy, Cynika and Eurocypria-Sek. “We were discussing the matter till 9 last night and then they go and call a strike,” Angelis protested.

    An official CY announcement condemned the strike as “totally unacceptable”.

    In their own announcement yesterday, the Eurocypria pilots made plain their frustration with the behaviour of both CY management and Pasipy.

    “Despite the totally unambiguous terms of our contract, the Chairman of the Cyprus Airways group, Mr Haris Loizides, has signed an agreement with the powerful Cyprus Airways pilots’ union, Pasipy, agreeing to their demands that they should ‘steal’ Captain posts in Eurocypria from our First Officers,” the strikers’ statement read.

    “This violates our contract with the company and is extremely unfair to our loyal, skilled and hard-working First Officers.”

    The Eurocypria pilots charged CY pilots with working to tear apart Eurocypria. “(Pasipy)…sees our lower pay and harder-working ethos as a threat to their lifestyle, and have continuously sought to destroy the Cyprus Airways’ group’s low cost operator,” the Eurocypria-Sek announcement read.

    The strikers pulled no punches in their criticism of CY boss Loizides, flatly accusing him of showing favouritism to CY pilots.

    “Although we have tried for months to dissuade Mr Loizides from his unprincipled actions, he continues to place a higher priority on ‘appeasing the bully’ than on standing by his own agreements.”

    Angelis insisted the deal to give Eurocypria Captain positions to CY pilots was only a “temporary deal” till the whole issue could be sorted out.

    The CY spokesman said the whole dispute boiled down to a power-struggle between the different unions. He said it was “ridiculous” that Cynika (a wing of Sek) was happy with the management’s position on the issue while Eurocypria-Sek was fighting it.

    Eurocypria-Sek expressed regret for the disruption caused by yesterday’s strike, describing it as an “uncharacteristic” action by its members.

    The national carrier has a long history of having its services disrupted by strikes.

    Thursday, September 21, 2000

    [02] Bitterness on the picket line

    By Jenny Curtis

    EUROCYPRIA'S 27 striking pilots yesterday formed a picket line outside the airport staff's main entrance, and vowed that if they did not get results this time, further action would be taken in the future.

    The pilots at Cyprus Airways' charter subsidiary are angry at colleagues from the mother company “stealing” their promotions at Eurocypria. Yesterday's strike action was sparked by a recent management decision to again offer a number of Eurocypria captain posts to CY pilots.

    Captain Thomas Hadjithomas, a member of the Sek Eurocypria Pilots' Union Committee, said yesterday enough was enough: “We have been pushed into a corner and left no alternative but to stop working. We tried until late last night to reach a compromise, we wanted to negotiate a positive solution, but Cyprus Airways management have made their minds up and are so far refusing to change the agreement.”

    Hadjithomas said that five weeks ago they had renewed their own contracts with the company, reducing operational costs and setting a lower salary for new entry pilots. Such sacrifices made their treatment all the more unacceptable, he added.

    “We have given so much to this firm, yet all Cyprus Airways want to do is take our future career prospects away from us - why should we stand back and let them do this?”

    The men and women on the picket line spoke of their resentment, particularly when their wages are compared to what Cyprus Airways pilots earn - about one and a half times more. They also pointed to Eurocypria's recent successes: in 1998 it was rated the fifth best airline in Europe, for its flights to the UK and came third in the same category last year.

    “When you consider how hard we work, the whole situation is outrageous,” one pilot said.

    Hadjithomas agreed they had been treated badly: “Many of us have been here for as long as 10 years, and have been extremely loyal to this company. We are of course sorry we have caused so much disruption to tourists and we don't enjoy creating trouble, but at the end of the day we agreed this was the only course of action to take.”

    He added the pilots were delighted with the level of support offered by fellow employees. All 130 Eurocypria staff members, including cabin crew and ground staff, joined in the strike, which was due to end at 4.30 this morning.

    He wants management to withdraw the controversial agreement with CY pilots and be ready to engage in “true and honest negotiations”. If they refuse, he warns, they can expect further industrial action.

    Thursday, September 21, 2000

    [03] Ambulance worker faces sanction after refusing to drive patient

    Anthony O. Miller

    A LIMASSOL Port Authority ambulance worker faces harsh punishment for refusing to drive an injured dockworker to hospital or call for another driver to take him, Limassol Port Operations Manager Christos Aseminos said yesterday.

    “He said it was not in his duties” to call for another driver. “All he had to do was call someone in the management to get a driver. He refused to do this,” Aseminos said.

    “Believe me, we shall punish him. We have three steps (of punishment) and we will not start at the first step,” he pledged.

    Port Authority and Health Ministry officials claimed they had just learned yesterday of the incident, which occurred at 11pm on September 11 at Limassol Port.

    Fortunately the injured dockworker was only slightly hurt, Aseminos said, and a Limassol General hospital ambulance was eventually called to take him there.

    Aseminos said, “I have one (ambulance attendant) on each watch. It's not necessary to have two or 100. One is enough,” he insisted.

    “The man refused to drive the ambulance,” Aseminos said. “(He said) he was supposed to stay in the back of the vehicle with the injured man, and we should send someone else to drive the ambulance.”

    “Either he drives the vehicle or he asks for another driver. But he did not ask for another driver and would not drive the ambulance.”

    “I have 20 other drivers… experienced people. We have a safety officer, a security officer and we have ambulance drivers because we work around the clock. We usually have one accident every month,” Aseminos said.

    “But this man this day would not drive and did not ask somebody else to drive the vehicle,” he said.

    “He made a mistake: he refused to take the man to hospital, so we are now going through the proper channels to punish him. We won't leave it like this.”

    Aseminos did not say why a safety or security officer simply did not call for a driver on his own when the attendant refused to drive the ambulance.

    Health Minister Frixos Savvides and his Ambulance Chief Andreas Kouppis said they were powerless to intervene.

    “These are the kinds of problems one finds when one has absolutely no authority… either to grant a licence or to have a say in the operation of private ambulances because the law does not provide for this,” Savvides said.

    “We are changing the law,” he said. “We have identified the problem and we are taking steps to rectify it.”

    Both Savvides and Kouppis said a Health Ministry bill awaiting Parliament's reopening would give Savvides total control over the licensing, equipping and operation of ambulances that are either privately owned or owned by semi-governmental organisations such as the Port Authority.

    Currently Larnaca and Paphos airports, the Electricity Authority and the Port Authority have ambulances that are outside Savvides' jurisdiction, Kouppis said.

    Kouppis conceded, “the Ministry of Health does not know which (other) service has ambulances,” private or semi-governmental. “We know only the services that ask us to provide help in training staff and with equipment,” he said.

    “We are not responsible to ensure a private ambulance is ready to operate. We are not responsible for the equipment or the training of staff. There is no law in Cyprus concerning private ambulance companies. If anybody wants to run an ambulance, he can,” Kouppis said.

    Savvides conceded this, but insisted his omnibus health bill would close this legal loophole if it passes Parliament.

    Kouppis said he “knew they had an ambulance” at Limassol Port, but never inspected it or vetted its personnel's training “because I was never asked to,” and doing so without invitation is outside his authority.

    Thursday, September 21, 2000

    [04] Accused doctor could face prosecution despite cash return deal

    By Athena Karsera

    THE NEUROSURGEON who returned £360,000 in missing funds to the Institute of Neurology and Genetics before resigning may still face criminal charges when the Attorney-general returns from Cyprus problem talks in New York.

    The Institute has said that, as far as it is concerned, the case is closed since Dr. Koullis Kyriallis agreed to the cash. But the case file remains open at the Attorney-general's office.

    Health Minister Frixos Savvides yesterday said he had received assurances the institute's decision would not affect the outcome of the Legal Services' investigation.

    “The most important stance is that of Attorney-general Alecos Markides, who is overseas at the moment, but who I have been told is handling this personally. The main thing I wanted to know was whether the decision taken by the board would affect the decision and report by the Attorney-general.”

    He said the assistant Attorney-general had assured him this would not be the case.

    But the Minister could not rule out that Kyriallis might have made some sort of deal with the Institute in return for handing back the money: “Maybe he has been assured that a civil suit will not be pursued.”

    The case came to light when Auditor-general Chrystalla Yiorkadji in June began investigating the disappearance of funds from the Institute. The money was eventually tracked down to a London bank account being used by Kyriallis, who had received the money from American drugs firm Biogen in the framework of sponsored drug trials.

    Three of the Institute's 10-member board disagreed with the in-house agreement, with

    Elsi Christofia and Alexandra Galanos submitting their resignations over the issue.

    Health Ministry director general Symeon Matsis yesterday told the Cyprus Mail that while the Ministry board representative had disagreed with the outcome, she would not be handing in her resignation.

    “We have discussed the issue with the Minister…as you know we did not agree with the arrangement because we wanted to hear the Attorney-general's view before deciding on a solution…However, we see no reason for the latest events and developments to lead our representative to submit her resignation.”

    Matsis said he believed the entire committee had acted with the Institute's best interests at heart and that the decision “did not in any way exonerate any possible civil or criminal wrongdoing. It's up to the Attorney-general to decide.”

    An Institute investigation in June showed Kyriallis had failed to disclose that Biogen, which had agreed to supply an expensive drug for 40 Multiple Sclerosis (MS) patients, was also funding the trials.

    The patients paid for the treatment never realising they should have been receiving it for free.

    Kyriallis maintains he did nothing wrong and that the £360,000 came from a private agreement he had with Biogen.

    Thursday, September 21, 2000

    [05] Energy plans as fuel crisis bites

    By Martin Hellicar

    STREET lamps across the island are to be fitted with fluorescent bulbs in an energy-saving exercise expected to save state coffers about £1 million a year, the Commerce Ministry announced yesterday.

    The Ministry, sparked into action by soaring crude oil costs, also announced a scheme to get homeowners to ditch standard bulbs for the energy- saving fluorescent variety.

    The Electricity Authority (EAC) is to offer its customers two fluorescent bulbs for the price of one. The compact fluorescent bulbs, which use 75 per cent less power than a standard bulb, retail at around £5.

    Households and businesses that manage to cut their electricity consumption by 15 per cent between November and February, compared to the same period last year, will be given free fluorescent bulbs by the EAC.

    The fluorescent bulb drive is part of a package of energy saving measures decided at an extraordinary Tuesday night meeting chaired by Commerce Minister Nicos Rolandis.

    “During the meeting, a series of energy conservation measures were decided, which can be implemented immediately or in the near future with the aim of achieving more efficient use of both electricity and fuels in general,” a Commerce Ministry statement read yesterday.

    Most of the energy saving measures announced yesterday boil down to plans rather than action.

    The first step in the energy saving drive will be for the EAC to launch a public awareness campaign.

    As part of the energy awareness campaign, the Ministry is to move to have energy usage labelling put on all new electrical devices and all cars. All new cars in showrooms must now display this energy efficiency information. The issue of labelling for electrical devices is to be tabled before the cabinet next month.

    Another measure will be to get EAC experts to assess energy use in all government offices in an effort to minimise wastage.

    The Commerce Ministry also announced plans to look into extending its subsidy system for renewable energy projects. The Ministry currently pays 30 per cent of the cost of installing solar or wind power installations in the farming, tourism and industrial sectors.

    Cyprus has enormous wind and solar power potential and the government has often been criticised for failing to tap into this.

    Another energy saving avenue to be looked at by the Ministry is the strict enforcement of road speed limits. Vehicle fuel consumption rises meteorically at speeds of over 90 km/hour, the Ministry noted.

    The Ministry also plans to promote greater use of public transport by students and the public in general. The possibility of routing buses to and from the airports is also to be looked at.

    Crude oil imports are expected to cost the island £300 million this year, compared to £150 million in 1999.

    Petrol pump prices - now linked to the price of crude on international markets - have already gone up and are expected to rise further.

    Cyprus Airways spokesman Tassos Angelis yesterday warned that the national carrier was having to pay out so much for aviation fuel that it was being forced to look at raising fares.

    Thursday, September 21, 2000

    [06] Taxis threaten strike if petrol prices rise again

    By Anthony O. Miller

    TAXI drivers are threatening to go on strike in the first week of October if the government refuses to offer them concessions to offset rising fuel costs, Urban Taxi Drivers Union chairman Kypros Andreou said yesterday.

    “We are asking the government for a discount on the price of petrol for professional taxi drivers, and we asked the government to find other ways for us to provide cheaper services to the people,” Andreou said.

    “We want road licences to be free. We want to pay nothing. It's now £154 a year, I think. Every car pays a road licence. We want it free as one of the concessions,” he said.

    “At the end of this month, if the price of petrol goes up and the government doesn't give anything to the taxis, the taxis will be on strike in the first week of October,” he warned.

    The price of petrol looks set to rise by a cent from October 1 according to an automatic price mechanism that aligns pump prices with world oil prices and currency exchange rates.

    “I'm not ready to say if a strike is certain, but we'll see if prices go up and the government doesn't give a discount for the petrol or any other concessions,” he said.

    Andreou said his union had “more than 800 members” of the island's total of 1,200 taxi drivers and a strike by them would mean no taxi service at Larnaca or Paphos airports.

    He also did not rule out a taxi blockade of the Larnaca oil refinery, the petrol companies' nearby storage tanks or individual petrol stations as an added protest during any strike.

    “We'll discuss this by the end of the month,” he said. “I'm not able now to say what we'll do. Maybe strike, or maybe the other action,” he said.

    Thursday, September 21, 2000

    [07] Future looks bleak for weary market

    By Jennie Matthew

    ANALYSTS are looking towards the long-term horizon as the Stock Market closed down for the third day in a row yesterday, dwindling by 2.34 points as the all-share index finished up at 374.19.

    Traded volume clocked up a mundane £21.02 million, as interest in the market remains low for apprehensive investors.

    “What we’re seeing is a short-term trend. The market moved sideways and there was a minor decline again. I can’t see it changing until there’s a major break-through,” said analyst Christos Achillides.

    The investments sector chalked up the only group positive performance, with a growth of only 1.06 per cent and a depressing volume of some £1.17 million. Kyknos Investment Portfolio Co Ltd <KYK> was the most traded investment share with £435,321 changing hands.

    CLR Investment Fund <CLL> dominated trading for the second day running, after its much awaited market debut on September 14. Despite an impressive volume of £2.93, the share price rose by a mere whisker to close 0.7 cents up at 39.9 cents.

    Otherwise, there was surprising action in the ranks of manufacturing companies. G&K Exclusive Fashions Ltd was the third most traded share of the day, up 1.28 per cent to finish at £1.28 a share on the back of a £1.36 million traded volume.

    Insurance companies put in the most dismal show, slipping 3.04 per cent under – a rock bottom volume of just £379,333. Minerva Insurance <MIN> dominated the group, accounting for 85.97 per cent of share transactions. Nonetheless, the share price shed three cents to close at 90 cents – a loss of 0.04 per cent.

    Trading companies almost matched their 2.94 per cent decent on Tuesday, drooping by another 2.24 per cent yesterday. Cyprus Trading Corporation Ltd <CTC> was the sector’s biggest price loser, closing six cents down at £1.63.

    The tourism companies also failed to cancel out Tuesday’s losses, dwindling by another 0.99 per cent on a stagnant volume of only £686,923.

    The banking sector, the only group to stay out of the red on Tuesday, lost 0.40 per cent, with some £1.55 million changing hands.

    Hellenic Bank <HER> dominated the sector’s volume, amassing £295,690 of trade. Its share price neither gained nor lost, closing at £2.00 for the second day running.

    Bank of Cyprus <BOC> however, dropped 0.01 per cent to close down at £6.69, and Cyprus Popular Bank <CPB> slipped 0.04 per cent to finish down at £9.68, after both made gains of 0.7 per cent on Tuesday.

    Analysts are projecting a long-term pick up, when BOC makes its planned entry into the Athens Stock Market this autumn.

    “The BOC entry could carry the market forward for the next year, provided it joins when the index is on the way up and not at the pinnacle,” Achillides said.


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