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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-07-18

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

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


Wednesday, July 18, 2001

CONTENTS

  • [01] Unions call for regulations as workers labour through the heat wave
  • [02] Government isolated over strike law plan
  • [03] Government insists water problem is thing of the past
  • [04] Meningitis risk down, but officials still urge vigilance
  • [05] Bank raiders foiled by locked door
  • [06] Rolandis meets Clay over drugs video
  • [07] Ship detentions down
  • [08] Welfare staff go on strike

  • [01] Unions call for regulations as workers labour through the heat wave

    By Jennie Matthews

    TRADE unions are dealing with complaints from outdoor labourers, accusing employers of failing to implement the law when temperatures hit uncomfortable highs and relax their working hours.

    Contrary to common belief, there is no provision in the law that stipulates labourers can stop work when the mercury reaches 40 degrees Celsius.

    Instead, the law requires employers to ensure "satisfactory climatic conditions in the work place" to the best of their ability.

    Employers are supposed to supply staff with fresh water, shade for breaks and rest when the sun burns at its strongest.

    With the thermometer up to 41 in Nicosia yesterday and set to stay there until the weekend, complaints have been rushing in to union offices. And with humidity spiralling on the coast, workers in other towns have also protested about conditions to union representatives.

    The general secretary of SEK's builders' federation, Andreas Klitou, told the Cyprus Mail that he had dealt with no less than 20 complaints in the last few days.

    He criticised the law for not pinpointing a precise temperature at which all outside labour should cease.

    A spokesman for PEO said enough complaints had been made for the union to issue a public statement about the matter.

    But the director of labour inspection at the Ministry of Labour, Giorgos Sideras, yesterday stood by the law despite union criticism.

    "There is no specific temperature when work should be suspended, but what kind of number would you need when it's 40 and humidity is 30 per cent, or up to 70 per cent in Limassol?" he said.

    Sideras said makeshift shelters should be set up for builders and road workers, who are most subject to intense sun.

    But so far this year the unions have handled all complaints. The government steps in only when employers ignore union pressure.

    Top-level coercion is usually enough. "Usually they comply. It makes sense because no one's going to produce anything under these conditions," said Sideras.

    Nevertheless it's very difficult to police practices unless workers or unions bring violations to government attention.

    If the self-employed chose to work through the heat, then that can urge rival employers to push their own teams to keep up.

    The Meteorological Office said yesterday that the heat wave would continue to the weekend.

    Temperatures on the central plains are expected to hit 41 degrees again today and the fire brigade is stressing the considerable risk of forest fire.

    The Health Ministry warned that children and those suffering from heart or breathing problems were most at risk.

    People are advised to drink copious amounts of liquids, eat light meals and wear light coloured clothing.

    The Electricity Authority said yesterday they had a special action plan to cope with the rapid surge in power demand thanks to the continuous use of air conditioners.

    Excessive air conditioning use last July plunged Nicosia into a wave of power cuts in July.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] Government isolated over strike law plan

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE LABOUR Ministry yesterday came under fire for failing to sign up to a gentlemen's agreement regulating strikes in essential services.

    The government insists it wants the issue to be regulated by law.

    The President of the Employers and Industrialists Federation (OEV), Michalakis Zivanaris, yesterday expressed his frustration at the Minister's continued refusal to sign the 1999 agreement for strike regulations.

    "We agree with the current legal regulation of strikes, but we feel that changes need to be made. The proposed agreement is within the industrial relations codes, so we cannot see why the Ministry does not want to sign," said Zivanaris.

    Zivanaris said the "gentleman's" agreement was neither unconstitutional nor irregular and accused the Minister of having ulterior motives for opposing it.

    "I believe it is an issue of image and stubbornness; I cannot explain it otherwise; I am sorry to use harsh language, but am obliged to do so to show our complete disagreement," the OEV chief said.

    He called on all social partners to sign up to the 1999 agreement, claiming President Clerides had heralded the deal as the solution for the "thorny" issue of strikes in essential services.

    Demetris Kittenis, the leader of right-wing trade union SEK, backed Zivanaris yesterday. "All countries that have tried to use laws to regulate strike action have failed," said Kittenis. He said the 1999 gentlemen's agreement stipulated that there had to be 25 days' warning before a strike, that a public investigation of the industrial dispute had to precede any strike action and that skeleton staff would always be on hand during any strike. He said the 1999 deal was "more advanced" than any legal regulation proposed by the government.

    The leader of left-wing PEO, Pambis Kiritsis, also spoke out against a law on strikes in essential services. He said the 1999 agreement, which he said was set up under the industrial relations code, protected the workers' "holy" right to strike.

    But Labour Minister Andreas Moushiouttas said his department was preparing a new bill put together by an international expert hired by the government. He added trade unions had been given the proposal for approval.

    Moushiouttas said workers had a right to strike, but it was a matter that should be regulated by law, for the good of the workers.

    "We have a constitution that says the right to strike is protected, and the exercising of this right can be regulated by law - this is not a matter of the government wanting to have a law, it is stated in the constitution, not in order to protect employers but rather workers," the Minister said.

    The Minister's position was supported by the island's other employers' organisations, the Chamber of Commerce (KEVE). KEVE said strikes in essential services should be legally regulated.

    The President of the Chamber, Vassilis Rologis, said smaller unions were not covered by Industrial Relations codes. He said a law would be better respected by all unions that a gentlemen's agreement.

    The 1999 agreement would mean that the government would not be able to call striking workers back to work in essential services. However, strike action would only be an option if all other alternatives, including binding arbitration, had been exhausted.

    The agreement was signed by OEV, and by trade unions PASYDY, PEO and SEK in September 1999.

    The issue of regulating strikes in essential services came to the fore after Cyprus Airways (CY) pilots brought the island's two airports to a two- hour standstill on Friday. The pilots walked out to attend a morning meeting to discuss developments in a long-running dispute with CY management over promotions in charter subsidiary Eurocypria.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Government insists water problem is thing of the past

    By Jennie Matthews

    THE government yesterday dismissed allegations that the island has a lingering water problem as "baseless and irresponsible", despite claims from civil servants that water consumption is 35 per cent higher than last year.

    Similarly, the Larnaca Desalination Plant yesterday claimed to be operating at maximum output since Saturday, and denied failing to meet deadlines.

    Despite initial hopes that the plant would be finished as early as December 2000, it only came on line in April.

    On Friday, senior civil servants at the Agriculture Ministry told the Cyprus Mail that the plant was in its third month of teething problems.

    They said it had only realised its maximum daily output of 46,000 cubic metres of drinking water, for two weeks.

    But Larnaca Water Partners (LWP), owners of the plant, said yesterday that since Saturday the unit had been working at full tilt to produce 46,500 cubic metres a day.

    Their statement contradicted earlier claims from the government that the unit was incapable of producing more than 40,000 cubic metres a day.

    LWP denied failing to meet deadlines, saying their contract had been postponed to a starting point in mid-July.

    Therefore, they said all water produced so far was over and above their mandate.

    Officials said on Friday that the filtration system was being repaired so that it could remove all excess boron when the plant worked at maximum output.

    Last week's reduced production of 28,000 cubic metres a day was because the boron exceeded accepted standards if water was pumped out in greater quantities.

    The shortfall was being covered by supplies from dams and reservoirs, which are twice as full as they were last year.

    Senior civil servants last week urged people not to waste water, saying water consumption was already up 35 per cent on last year.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous reiterated their concerns on Monday.

    But Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou yesterday refused to accept any stories about a less than perfect water situation.

    He said the water problem had been solved and denied boron posed any problem whatsoever.

    He brushed aside reports over consumption and criticised media coverage as "baseless and irresponsible rumblings".

    "Even in the most negative scenario, there is adequate water. The water problem, as far as drinking water is concerned, has been solved finally," he insisted.

    "There is no problem with boron in water. No problem at all," he said.

    He blamed journalists for alarming the public unnecessarily and attacked left-wing newspaper Haravaghi for accusing Themistocleous of lying.

    "LWP will spare no effort, and is committed to do its utmost in order to continue to serve the Water Development Department and the Cyprus Government expediently and diligently, as they have done so far," the company's statement added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] Meningitis risk down, but officials still urge vigilance

    By Martin Hellicar

    THE VIRAL meningitis outbreak that threatened to sweep across the island earlier this summer appears to have subsided, but health officials yesterday warned the public to remain vigilant.

    In late June - with 99 cases of the highly contagious disease recorded in the first half of the year and a new case appearing almost every day - the Public Health department was warning that only strict observance of hygiene rules could prevent a viral meningitis epidemic.

    Another nine cases have been recorded since then, but health experts now say the threat of an epidemic has passed. But the senior Limassol district health officer, Chrystalla Hadjianastasiou, urged the public not to let its guard down.

    Limassol has suffered 94 of the 108 meningitis cases, and Hadjianastasiou stressed the need to maintain high hygiene standards, as soaring summer temperatures made for ideal conditions for virus to spread.

    The main symptoms of viral meningitis, which is nowhere near as dangerous as the sometimes deadly bacterial form of the disease, are a high fever and headaches.

    To prevent spread of the virus through personal contact, people are advised to observe strict rules of personal hygiene and general cleanliness.

    The Health Ministry urges that hands be washed regularly, eating utensils never be shared, underwear be changed daily, babies' nappies be changed well away from food preparation areas, the mouth be covered when coughing and the hands washed immediately afterwards, that children be discouraged from hugging or kissing others and especially non family members and that pregnant mothers avoid contact with sufferers.

    Health officials also say a diluted chlorine-based cleaner should be used for house cleaning, homes should be kept well aired, rubbish taken out regularly, bedclothes changed regularly and outdoor areas kept litter-free. The ministry also advises that crowded places be avoided, especially where young children are concerned

    Last year, there was a five-fold increase in the number of people suffering from meningitis, though the vast majority of cases was not life threatening. There were 134 incidents in total, but more than three quarters were viral - the others bacterial, of which only four were meningococcal, one of the most dangerous types. In December last year, the Health Ministry said the rise in meningitis cases was not down to any particular reason and was not a cause for serious concern.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Bank raiders foiled by locked door

    By a Staff Reporter

    LIMASSOL police were yesterday investigating what appeared to be a bungled attempt to rob a Bank of Cyprus branch in the town's Amathus area.

    Two hooded men approached the back door of the bank just after midday. They tried to open it but found it locked. Realising they had been spotted by bank employees, the would-be raiders made a run for it, climbing onto a small motorbike and speeding off, bank tellers said.

    The bank immediately warned police of the aborted hold-up and a search for the two hooded suspects was launched.

    But the failed robbers were nowhere to be found. "We have found nothing, all we have is what the bank employees told us," the Limassol duty officer said later in the day.

    It was not clear whether the two hapless raiders had been armed.

    Yesterday was the second time in the space of 20 days that a Limassol Bank of Cyprus branch had been targeted by robbers.

    A 27-year-old Limassol man is currently on trial for a June 28 armed robbery at the bank's Kato Polemidia branch. Police say he got away with almost 28,000 in cash - 3,000 of which has not been recovered.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Rolandis meets Clay over drugs video

    By Jean Christou

    BRITISH High Commissioner Edward Clay yesterday met Commerce, Industry and Tourism Minister Nicos Rolandis to discuss the content of a video campaign to warn tourists of the island's zero-tolerance policy towards drugs.

    The two sides have been trying to produce a video to be shown to young tourists on incoming flights, but the government has rejected the first two attempts, saying it made Cyprus look like a police state.

    Rolandis said on Monday the video was akin to a mini version of Midnight Express and made Cyprus look like an island of prisons.

    The two sides are now working on a third version, which is currently being re-edited for approval, but officials are not able to say if it will be ready to have an impact on this year's tourist traffic, which is already at its peak.

    After yesterday's meeting, Clay said the government supported the High Commission's effort to warn young British tourists of the island's drugs policy and underlined the importance of the video.

    "It is not understood in the UK that Cyprus has a zero-tolerance on drugs and that this policy means what it says," Clay said.

    "We have no quarrel with that, but we feel the message needs to get across, especially to young people."

    Rolandis, who personally rejected both previous videos, said the government's point was that it did not want to dissuade people from visiting Cyprus by portraying the island as a police state.

    "We are going to make a final effort that will give certain warnings, seeing as the country we get our tourists from has this problem," he said.

    "On the other hand, we do not want to dissuade tourists from coming to Cyprus by giving the impression that Cyprus is a country with prisons and heavy sentencing and all that, but we want to give the message in a different way and to retain the image of Cyprus as a good holiday destination."

    "The controversial versions of the 45-second video, which cost 6,000 to make, portrayed a couple of clubbers being hauled off to jail in a police van after being caught with drugs at a nightclub.

    More than 30 Britons have been arrested this year on suspicion of drugs possession, particularly ecstasy tablets, used mainly at rave parties at the clubbers paradise of Ayia Napa.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Ship detentions down

    By Jean Christou

    THE NUMBER of Cypriot-flagged ships detained at American ports is on the decline, the Communications and Works Ministry announced yesterday.

    Cyprus has now reached the bottom of the US 'black list' of countries whose ships are targeted for detailed scrutiny.

    A statement from the Ministry said that, according to the latest statistics from the US coastguard, the drop in detentions was "significant".

    Out of the 823 Cypriot-flagged ships inspected at American ports, only 13 were detained last year. In the first half of this year, six ships were detained.

    "The percentage of Cypriot ships detained exceeds the average for US ports by only 0.7per cent," the statement said.

    In 1998, Cyprus was 3.97 per cent above the average detention rate and in 1999 1.15 per cent, the statement added.

    "With these results, Cyprus is now in bottom place in the catalogue of countries to be detained," the statement added.

    The Ministry put the new results down to stricter government policies towards the shipping industry and efforts to upgrade the fleet.

    Cyprus has the world's fifth largest fleet, with over 2,500 ships on its open registry, but has long suffered from a tarnished reputation as a flag of convenience.

    The government has consistently claimed that many of the detentions imposed on Cypriot ships were unjustified and based on minor faults that did not necessarily mean the vessels were substandard. It believes that, as an open registry, Cyprus was specifically targeted, particularly in the US.

    In the past five years, the government has made huge efforts to clean up the flag's image. More inspectors have been appointed to foreign ports, and several substandard ships have been deleted from the registry in preparation for tougher EU controls.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] Welfare staff go on strike

    By Rita Kyriakides

    STAFF at the Welfare Department yesterday went on strike in protest at new procedures they say are bogging down their operation.

    The issue of welfare cheques will not, however, be affected by the action.

    The processing section of the Department is protesting against additional procedures introduced as part of the computerisation of claims and applications.

    The processing staff say they are frustrated at the new procedures, claiming they are delaying the issue of welfare cheques and solving of problems, affecting "hundreds, if not thousands of people and families".

    People receiving monthly welfare checks will not be affected by the strike, but those making new applications for welfare should expect a delay in the processing of their forms.

    The management committee of workers at the Welfare Department has approached the Labour Ministry with its grievances, but feels they have not been taken seriously. A response from the Ministry came after the strike action was announced and a meeting is scheduled to take place with the General Manager of the Labour Ministry today.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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