You may wonder, who is Jimmy Hoffa? This man was the Chairman of the Truckers Union in the US, who was accused and jailed for bribery, Mafia ties, etc.
This was the end result of an investigation that was carried out by the J.F. Kennedy administration with the chief investigator being Bobbie Kennedy.
During the investigation, Hoffa called a national strike which almost brought the US economy to its knees.
One of the many problems the Cyprus Government faces is the behaviour of some unions that behave in a rather similar, blackmailing manner so that the economy cannot function properly.
As regards to civil servants, their inefficiency, indifference, and the never-ending demands are noticeable which cause damage to the Cyprus economy, and by extension to all of us taxpayers and consumers.
I will refer to certain recent examples that we have experienced but there are hundreds more.
- Town Planning – We were asked by a foreign investor who wished to acquire a large building plot in Nicosia to investigate the development parameters of a planning zone that the plot fell in. We wrote to the Planning Office submitting our enquiries on the subject and after two months of no answer, despite our reminders and have then applied to the Planning Director (he called us promptly) we arranged for an interview with the District Planning Department. We had a meeting, but the local Planning Office reported that it needs to refer the matter to H.Q. for advice. After 40 days of waiting and our reminders, we got a call from the District Planning Office, asking us to submit a written request (again) for preliminary planning views. So, after waiting four months and bearing in mind that preliminary planning views can take anything 2-3 months or so, we were back to square one. We informed our foreign investor accordingly who gave up waiting and abandoned the project.
- Then there is the unfortunate foreign investor who proposed to develop an Adventure Park in Troodos. Although his application was approved initially, he waited for two years to be informed about what the lease rental would be. No reply, with the excuse of too much work. The end result, the project was abandoned much to the loss of the mountain resorts.
- The long-awaited Berengaria Hotel sale at Prodromos village got stuck again in Civil Service bureaucracy and the long patience of the foreign (Chinese) investor pulled out from the sale notwithstanding the fact that he had paid a down payment. So, his offer was withdrawn and cancelled the mountain region lost out again.
These and tens of other cases are examples of having untouchable unions whose members cannot be fired from their job.
We now come back to examine the differences we have experienced when work usually carried out by the Civil Service, is undertaken by private services:
- Airports – You may remember the almost daily strikes that the airports suffered from the most memorable one being by the porters complaining that the luggage was too heavy for them to unload from the planes. A strike followed which gained them added income and suddenly the weight was not an issue. No strikes since the privatisation of the airports.
- Ports – A similar situation and since privatisation, be it that there are problems at this initial stage, these are resolved within a short period of time.
- Court Bailiffs – Court Bailiffs were taking their time to deliver the documents to the various litigants which had resulted in backhanding. Now that this service has been outsourced, the delivery happens within a very short period of time and no cash under the table.
- Land Surveys – Top of our list in corruption which took months for execution. Now that this survey work is done by private surveyors, the time and cost are much reduced (minimal).
- Building Permits – A never-ending problem, be it that the government although it tried to pass on the work to private architects, the latter are not up to it preferring to play it safe (lack of knowledge is one of the reasons).
- A good percentage of local authorities manage their business as if it is their own. Local mayors and other “chiefs” have as their priority to find “jobs for the boys” and care little about the well-being of the area’s administration. In one case the mayor allowed one of the “local boys” to build a kiosk for selling newspapers and juices, within the protection zone (strictly prohibited) which became a grill bar. The District Officer protested and despite his warnings to the local Municipality, he received no reply. Now the Tourism Ministry is taking some sort of action.
- The previous Minister of Education “dared” to correct our education system and the unions called a strike and demonstrated with approximately 10,000 teachers on the streets. The government pulled back and the Minister was “demoted”!!
So here we are, not so much governed by the elected government, but by the unions and “mob” behaviour.
In the U.K., PM Margaret Thatcher demolished the coal miners’ unions and since then everything is peaceful.
Lovely, but then do we have the guts of Mrs Thatcher to do it in Cyprus?
Other “mob” style behaviour is that if one union strikes, then other unions who have nothing to do with the strike, call their members to strike in “support”.
Although we do not suggest that the local unions are anything similar to Mr Hoffa’s wrongdoings, it brings up another important matter – that of the shutdown of essential services, such as electricity, telecommunications, hospitals.