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Airport wildcat strikes ‘unacceptable’ says transport minister

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Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos issued a warning to ground service companies exploiting workers at airports after strikes over redundancies caused chaos at Paphos and Larnaca.

Paphos was the worst hit after ground staff declared an impromptu strike that lasted around five hours Wednesday, leaving thousands of travellers stranded.

Ground staff at Larnaca held a two-hour work stoppage on Tuesday over the firing of around 150 personnel at both airports following the introduction of a new contractor.

Karousos told CyBC radio Thursday that he would not hesitate to cancel a ground handling provider’s license to ensure the smooth operation of airports.

He said it was made clear to companies from the beginning that where there is excess staff, the other companies are obliged to hire them.

The minister blasted chaotic scenes at Paphos airport following Wednesday’s spontaneous work stoppage as “unnecessary and unacceptable”.

The redundancy decision – LGS and Swissport –violated an agreement to transfer employees to newly licensed Skyserve.

Where there is a surplus of staff, the new contractor must take them under the same terms and conditions without being made redundant.

Ground staff announced a two-hour strike at Paphos airport from 2 pm and 4 pm, but it lasted until around 7 pm.

The action has affected more than 20 flights; some diverted to Larnaca, and others cancelled, with travellers put up in hotels.

Travellers complained of being left stuck in the airport, with ‘no updates’ while others were standing outside for more than two hours.

Airports operator Hermes said some departures were cancelled due to the delays caused and flight time limitations of the cabin crew.

Their core grievance is that 156 staffers were handed redundancy letters on Tuesday after more competition was introduced to ground handling services.

But the agreement to transfer employees from LGS and Swissport to Skyserve did not happen, say unions.