Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos attending a demonstration of the new CPT app in January

No buses in Nicosia, Larnaca

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Public buses in the island’s capital and Larnaca has ground to a halt after drivers went on strike to protest the laying off of 36 colleagues, causing major disruption mainly in the transport of students to schools.

Trade unions SEK, PEO and Deok representing bus drivers in Nicosia and Larnaca employed by Cyprus Public Transport Ltd (CPT) had announced on Friday afternoon that they would be going on strike indefinitely, in response to the company’s decision to lay off their colleagues.

Despite the employers’ side recalling the layoffs on Saturday, bus drivers refused to get behind the wheels.

On Saturday, the unions reported that their members had not been satisfied with CPT recalling the layoffs, saying that drivers are being forced to work overtime, in violation of safety regulations, while vehicles are not up to standard.

The Transport and Labour ministries were reportedly working throughout the weekend in a bid to convince sides to come to a compromise and get buses running in time for Monday morning.

In comments to StockWatch, the permanent secretary of the Transport Ministry said that the employer had withdrawn the dismissals on Saturday, with unions however, not calling off the strike.

Labour issues since 2020

The labour crisis in the CPT has been lingering since the company took over the networks of the two towns back in July 2020.

Bus drivers had first gone on strike in September that year, complaining that they had not been paid in full, nor had they received compensation for overtime, while also reporting technical issues with the newly introduced fleet of buses.

As told by a PEO representative, unions also accused CPT for “covertly trying to bring in bus drivers from third countries, with lower wages.”

SEK and PEO, representing the CPT employees, had warned the company’s management that the employment of foreign workers should be done in accordance with the procedures provided by the relevant legislation and the collective agreements.

On Friday, CPT announced that it would be dismissing 36 workers from the administration department, out of a total workforce of 530.

CPT, a consortium consisting of Kapnos Airport Shuttles Ltd and Spanish-British owned MLKP Malta Lines, operates Nicosia and Larnaca’s public transport network, and is also responsible for running a number of school routes.

It has invested €40 mln on a brand new fleet of 220 buses and has a contract to run Nicosia and Larnaca’s bus services for the next ten years, following an open tender process.

As the operation of the networks was deemed unsustainable, the state chips in with an annual grant of €10 mln.