|Monday, 11 December 2023|
Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-01-04
From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>
 Government braced for all-out doctors' strikeBy Melina Demetriou DOCTORS at state hospitals and casualty departments will walk out for 24 hours next Friday if their demands for higher salaries are not met.
If the strike goes ahead, there will be no state doctors working on January 12, not even at casualty departments, the State Doctors' Union PASIKY has warned. The only doctors who will remain on duty will be a group treating in-patients.
Operations scheduled for January 12 will be postponed if doctors carry out their strike threats.
The Health Ministry plans to maintain services by assigning state doctors' work to private clinics, Minister Frixos Savvides said yesterday, insisting the government would not negotiate under the threat of industrial action.
The president of the Pancyprian Doctors' Association, Antonis Vassiliou, has taken up a mediating role between PASIKY and the ministry, in an effort to help them iron out their differences and make sure the strike is averted.
PASIKY's call to action last Friday followed a recent government decision to satisfy schoolteachers' demands for a pay rise.
PASIKY President Stavros Stavrou has complained that "teachers earn as much as we do".
"We spend an average of 12 years studying and we start working at 35, while teachers start at 23. Plus, the pensions and providence funds we receive after retirement are 80 per cent of what teachers receive."
The starting salary for schoolteachers is £800-900 per month, the same as unspecialised doctors. Doctors with a specialist degree get £950.
The Union blamed the government yesterday for having gone back at its promise two years ago to see that doctors' demands for higher salaries were met by 2000, with Stavrou warning about the Union's determination "to fight for our rights".
Stavrou called on the minister to attend the Union's General Assembly on the day of the planned action to address their problems and talk them out of striking.
"The government has repeatedly claimed to understand our problems but despite all the promises they have failed to address them, while on the other hand they met with teachers' demands over the course of a weekend. They are obviously not treating us with respect," Stavrou complained, threatening to put the government in a tight spot by disclosing discussions that had taken place between the union and government officials in the past.
Savvides repeated yesterday that the government would not negotiate unless strike measures were called off.
"The decision to strike was unnecessary and pointless, considering the government's positive response to the union's demands. Doctors voiced their demands on December 27 and announced strike measures two days later, without giving us adequate time to react to their claims."
The minister dismissed the union's invitation to their General Assembly on the day of the strike as disrespectful.
Pancyprian Doctors' President Antonis Vassiliou told the Cyprus Mail he would try to bridge the gap between PASIKY and the government by bringing the two sides in contact to find common ground.
"Doctors are right to raise their voices because their demands are reasonable. The government should try and resolve their problems. I have been in contact with both sides and although the gap between them seems very wide, I think there is a way for them to come to some sort of agreement by arranging discussions between the interested sides and the Association. I have some compromise solutions in mind. As a first step, the main problems of the doctors could be dealt with and a deadline could be set for the rest of them to be touched on at a later stage," he suggested.
Vassiliou hopes to talk doctors out of striking, "but if they do strike on January 12, we will make sure emergencies are treated at private clinics. I reassure you, no one will die," he promised.
OUTPATIENTS at Nicosia General Hospital yesterday voiced their concern about the planned doctor's strike, most of them arguing that emergency departments should never be left unmanned, fearing patients' lives could be on the line in the event of a strike.
Most patients held the government responsible for the current situation.
A fifty-year-old woman told the Cyprus Mail of an experience she went through seven years ago when she was about to deliver her baby.
"I was at the hospital about to give birth to my child and I was abandoned by doctors who rushed to a staff meeting, preparing to go on strike. If my father was not there to drag them out of the meeting room and bring them back to me, I think I would have lost my baby."
Another patient in his sixties said "I think some patients will die if all doctors strike. The government should satisfy the Union's demands, which are reasonable. But some doctors should be on-call in the case of a strike."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
 Teachers agree to consider pay offerBy Melina Demetriou HOPES rose yesterday that the schools dispute might be close to a solution when secondary schoolteachers' union OELMEK reacted favourably to a government proposal presented to unions last month over pay rises and the creation of new posts.
OELMEK had initially dismissed the proposal as not being in line with established agreements with the government.
But a marathon meeting of the union's council yesterday discussed the issue and decided to give the government proposal serious consideration, at the same time as making some additional suggestions to the Education Ministry over pay rises.
Education minister Ouranios Ioannides is expected to table the teachers' suggestions before the Cabinet today.
The minister said the government's proposals to OELMEK were supposed to be final, but that the Cabinet would have the last word.
The government proposal includes the creation of two new levels of position between those of `teacher' and `principal'. Specifically, it proposes an additional 23 headmaster places, and opens up 447 lower grade promotions.
The primary school teachers' union POED argued last month that opening up new positions would downgrade the status of its teachers and says the proposal would cost millions of pounds to be implemented.
The spat between the Education Ministry and the secondary school teachers begun when primary school teachers went on strike demanding pay rises to bring them into line with secondary school teachers.
The secondary school teachers reacted by asking for an upgrade in their own salaries -- to maintain the existing difference with their primary school colleagues.
Civil Servants' union PASIDY and Doctors' Union PASIKY followed suit by asking for pay rises of their own.
The government has agreed to consider PASIDY's demands and is expected to hold a discussion with the union to address the matter.
Doctors are threatening to go on strike on January 12 if their demands are not met by then.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
 Hundreds preparing pets for new UK `passport' schemeBy Jenny Curtis HUNDREDS of dog and cat owners in Cyprus are putting their animals through the preparation process for the pet passport scheme, which is officially being extended to the island in February.
Up until now people wishing to move to England had to put their animals through six months of quarantine, which can cost as much as £1,500. Servicemen and women returning from overseas postings are among those benefiting most from the change.
"I would say that in Dhekelia alone I have prepared about 100 animals so far," Caroline Buck, the garrison vet told the Cyprus Mail, describing pet owners' reactions to the scheme as one of "profound relief".
"Certainly from our point of view it is very satisfactory because it means far more people are actually taking their animals back to Britain and a number of people are taking on cats and dogs that would have otherwise remained homeless," she added.
Caroline said quarantine costs were prohibitive because people in the forces were posted so regularly and the whole system was both too lengthy and expensive. "It's not just a case of being posted to the UK for good -- a year later people might find they are having to move all over again."
"We have about eight or nine dogs boarding here at the moment, three of which have been here since August - they are all ready to leave the island in February as their owners have already left Cyprus," says Maureen Balsom, the Administrator of the British Forces Animal Welfare Sanctuary (BFAWS), at Dhekelia.
Julie Bartlett, who lives on the garrison, is currently preparing three dogs for export, two of her own and one for a friend. She says she is both relieved and pleased that passports for pets is finally coming to Cyprus: "It's excellent and completely unbelievable that you can now avoid quarantine, which in itself is an upsetting experience for the dogs."
The process itself is lengthy, but Julia insists that if you follow the advice that is now readily available, there is no danger that your pet will not be ready on time. "Basically, people should start preparing at the first opportunity and not leave it until the last minute. I know one lady who's just been short toured by a year so she's begun already."
The initial step involves giving the animal its first rabies injection and getting it micro-chipped. One month later it receives its second rabies vaccination and one month after that it is given a blood test. The sample is sent back to the UK where it is tested to see if the injection has worked. The results can take up to six weeks to arrive and if there are insufficient antibodies, the whole process must be repeated. Providing the test is positive the animal can travel exactly six months after the blood sample is taken, which means the entire length of the preparations should be about eight months.
Cyprus is one of 28 rabies-free new countries to be included in the scheme, which will now also extend to Australia, New Zealand and the Falkland Islands. The new additions will bring the total number to 50, but quarantine regulations will remain on animals travelling from the United Sates, where rabies is endemic. So far about 12,500 cats and dogs have travelled to and from Britain with their owners on pet passports and plans are under way to extend the scheme to dozens of other animals, including rabbits, gerbils and mice.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
 Blue chips back on trackBy Jean Christou BLUE chips dominated yesterday's stock market trading session, pushing the FTSE/CySE index up 3.5 per cent -- outperforming the general index by over one per cent.
The all-share index closed at 240 points, up 2.5 per cent on a volume of £12.6 million.
Trading opened in negative territory, three points down on Tuesday's 235- point close, but the index rose sharply before dropping back and rallying again in the last half an hour.
All sectors showed modest gains, except fish farms and manufacturing, which dropped 2.43 per cent and 1.18 per cent respectively.
The banking sector also outperformed the general index, clocking up gains of 3.13 per cent. Bank of Cyprus (BoC) gained seven cents to close at £3.18, and Laiki added 14 cents to end at £3.04.
The technology sector was the best performing of the day, with gains of 7.71 per cent on the back of heavy trading in GlobalSoft, which reached limit-up of £4.91 after adding 41 cents. GlobalSoft's volume reached £4.1 million, one-third of the day's total.
Nicosia broker Demos Stavrides said it appeared as if GlobalSoft's shareholders wanted to make it clear to investors that they would continue to support the stock, which has been suffering a downslide recently.
He said there had been a few bargain hunters out on the floor yesterday, and these would probably cash in during the coming days.
But Stavrides warned investor confidence remained quite low. "An index of 240 points does nothing to persuade investors that it is going to go up," he said. Stavrides said that because the Cyprus market was so closely linked to investor psychology, it would probably take some major event to boost interest.
As possible boosts, he cited a £100 million investment loan from a German bank, which the government is in the process of approving, the possible effects of the liberalisation of interest rates and the upcoming parliamentary elections in May.
"Today was a good day for good stocks but it may not last the week. I think that by Friday we will see some liquidations," he said.
Meanwhile the Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an announcement warning investors against following up advertisements appearing in the local press for mutual funds.
The SEC said it had come to its attention that certain companies were advertising investment plans as Mutual Funds. "The SEC would like to draw the attention of investors to the fact that legislation concerning Mutual Funds has not yet been approved. Therefore such advertisements are misleading," the announcement said. "Until such time as relevant legislation is in place, investment plans may not be referred to in advertisements and/or offered as Mutual Funds."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
 Cyprus steps up international protests in Tsiakourmas caseBy Jean Christou UN HIGH Commissioner for Human Rights Mary Robinson has been informed of the detention of Greek Cypriot contractor Panicos Tsiakourmas in the north, the government announced yesterday.
Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou said Cyprus' Permanent Representative to the UN in Geneva, Ambassador Alexandros Vikis, had sent a letter to Robinson informing her of the events surrounding Tsiakourmas' abduction and asking her to intervene personally to have him released.
Vikis also brought the matter before the chairman of the UN Commission for Human Rights, Ambassador Shambhu Ram Simkhada, requesting his assistance in efforts to have the Greek Cypriot released.
Tsiakourmas, 39, who is diabetic, was abducted from his car within the British Sovereign Base (SBA) of Dhekelia as he was going to pick up his Turkish Cypriot workers near Pergamos on December 12. He is being held in the north pending trial on February 25 for alleged possession of 1.5 kilos of cannabis.
His seizure followed threats of retaliation over the arrest by Cyprus police of a Turkish Cypriot on similar charges.
"Our permanent representative in Geneva made representations to UN High Commissioner Mary Robinson about the whole issue," Papapetrou said. "He said that we consider Turkey responsible for the kidnapping and continued custody of Panicos Tsiakourmas and for the violation of his human rights and we have asked for the High Commissioner to co-ordinate efforts with the (UN) Secretary-general to work for his immediate and unconditional release."
Papapetrou said the letter would be circulated as an official document at the 57th session of the Commission of Human Rights.
A letter to Commission chairman Simkhada said the government of Cyprus strongly condemned the abduction, which it described as an act of terrorism, and had appealed to various international bodies to help secure Tsiakourmas` release.
Foreign Minister Yiannakis Cassoulides yesterday discussed the matter with Britain's High Commissioner Edward Clay but neither had any news on Tsiakourmas.
Meanwhile British EuroMP Theresa Villiers has appealed to Britain's Foreign Secretary Robin Cook to take "the strongest action" in the Tsiakourmas case.
In a letter to Cook, Villiers said Panicos Tsiakourmas was abducted by "representatives of security authorities" in the Turkish-occupied part of Cyprus. The abduction took place on British sovereign territory. "This matter is therefore your responsibility as Secretary of State," the letter said.
"He (Tsiakourmas) is a law-abiding citizen with no police record of any kind. It looks very much as if Mr Tsiakourmas has been seized in retaliation for the recent arrest of a Turkish Cypriot on charges of heroin possession."
Referring to Tsiakourmas' health Villiers said there was no evidence to suggest that he was receiving the proper medical care. "Furthermore, there is evidence that he suffered physical abuse during his abduction," Villiers added.
"For the sake of Mr Tsiakourmas and his family, I would urge you to take the strongest action in this case."
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
 Deputies to examine tax reforms on MondayBy a Staff Reporter THE HOUSE Finance Committee will review the government's tax reform suggestions on Monday ahead before they are due before the Plenum next Thursday, Finance Minister Takis Klerides said yesterday.
Speaking after a meeting with leaders of the Employers' and Industrialists' Federation (OEV), Klerides said the reforms would be outlined during the Committee meeting and that OEV's suggestions would be taken into serious consideration.
"OEV has submitted a document on the tax reforms and we will listen to their suggestions carefully. The exchange of opinions with elements such as OEV is very important to the form the tax reforms will eventually take."
OEV chairman Michalakis Zivanaris said the tax reforms put forward by the government fell within the framework of the organisation's philosophy.
Klerides first announced some of the government's initial proposals for reform in early December, though attempts to find consensus between all the involved parties have yet to begin in earnest.
Addressing the Institute of Certified and Chartered Accountants of Cyprus last month, Klerides said that changes would include a rise in Value Added Tax gradually to bring Cyprus' current 10 per cent into line with the EU's 15 per cent and to raise consumer taxes on certain items such as fuel, tobacco and alcohol.
Without going into further detail, the Minister said those receiving low and middle incomes would have added tax benefits while the two per cent Defence levy would make way to become part of the VAT increase.
Taxation on Cypriot companies will also be brought in line with that of international companies on the island, again in line with EU requirements.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
 Letterbox thieves remandedBy a Staff Reporter LIMASSOL district court yesterday remanded four men for allegedly conspiring to commit a crime, stealing government cheques, circulating counterfeit cheques and obtaining funds under false pretences.
The suspects, three men and one woman, all from Limassol were remanded for six days.
They are suspected of stealing two cheques worth £1,800 and £954 from Limassol letterboxes made out to Myrofora Chrysostomou and Michalaki Michael.
The suspects then allegedly went to two jewellers and brought merchandise with the cheques receiving their change in cash.
Investigations are continuing.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000
 Unsold ticket fetches kiosk owner £200,000By Athena Karsera A PALLIOURIOTISSA kiosk owner has found himself £200,000 richer after failing to sell winning government lottery ticket number 287307.
Andreas Christou, 60, has been running his kiosk on Agnoumenos Street in the Nicosia suburb for the last 11 years and at first thought he was unlucky not to have sold all the tickets he bought from Christos Antoniou Agency, only to be proved spectacularly wrong.
Christou told the CyBC that he would hold onto £50,000 for himself and his wife Evanthia and would divide the rest of the money between his three children and five grandchildren.
He also said that the kiosk which he had been trying to sell for the last five months was still up for sale.
Copyright Cyprus Mail 2000