Cyprus Electricity Authority staff staging a 12 hour-strike Wednesday were accused of exploiting the pre-election period at the public’s expense.
Trade unions are protesting the government’s “unwillingness to hire the necessary staff to fill vacant positions while obstructing the authority’s RES investments”.
All customer service centres across the island remained closed for the day.
However, the trade unions exempted staff working on emergency services to repair any damages that may occur.
“Unions are accusing the government of not taking action to secure the proper staffing of the organisation. Nothing could be further from the truth,” said Finance Minister Constantinos Petrides.
The minister argued that, on the contrary, a request to create 80 new positions was approved.
Another 146 positions, as Petrides said, were approved through the Supplementary Budget of the EAC for 2022.
However, a core union demand is opening 375 job positions, as asked by the authority, including mechanics and network specialists.
The Finance Ministry’s budget, however, greenlighted only 145 positions.
Petrides said 12.2% of the 2,329 positions were vacant in 2022, but the demand of the authority and unions for 375 positions would have increased the staff by 17%.
“Furthermore, the creation of 375 new positions would inevitably lead to an increase in the operating costs of the EAC and the price for electricity consumption, in a difficult period for the Cypriot consumer”.
The minister said creating new jobs is not the solution to problems related to the workload.
He pointed out that EAC must find other ways to deal with the increased workload, such as modernisation and redesigning how it conducts daily transactions with the public and other institutions.
“The Government has also recommended the digitalisation and interconnection of these processes, the introduction of automation and intensive training of existing staff in new technologies.”
Renewable energy sources are also a bone of contention.
Unions support that any interference by other state services should be scrapped so EAC can diversify its energy offerings and reduce the cost of production.
This would translate to cheaper electricity for consumers, argue unions.
“The ministry has never had a negative attitude towards the expansion of EAC’s activities in RES, provided this is done at the same time as the gradual withdrawal of outdated and polluting conventional production,” said Petrides.
He said that another precondition would be for the authority to proceed with the necessary development of electricity networks to enable unhindered activity by third parties in the production from RES, strengthening competition for the benefit of the consumer and, therefore, full liberalisation of the market.
“EAC’s position is to secure its monopoly at the expense of the economy and consumers”.