Larnaca dockworkers continue strike

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Larnaca port has come to a standstill after dockworkers decided Wednesday to continue their strike until overtime pay demands are met.

The employers’ federation called the strike “unacceptable”, while the island’s chamber of commerce said the port and island’s economy were held hostage.

A mediation effort by Cyprus Transport Minister Alexis Vafeadis did not reach any outcome as the matter will probably be referred to the Labour Ministry.

Contractual and labour issues at the Larnaca port and marina are nothing new.

Last month, Vafeadis managed to get construction of the €1.2 bln project back on track after the operator and the government reached a compromise agreement over a financial deadlock in the terms.

Now, trade unions claim that port operator Kition Ocean Holdings has violated collective labour agreements as regards overtime schedules and pay, with SEK and PEO officials saying that the company is also using non-union staff to work after hours.

Following an earlier strike by workers in the logistics department in February, the work schedule was agreed at 7.30am to 3.30pm, the unions said.

Furthermore, the agreement also gives dockworkers first right of rejection in case of overtime work, after which staff from other Kition departments may be utilised.

“The strike is unnecessary and in violation of the Industrial Relations Code, to enforce demands that are not based on any process,” said the Employers and Industrialists’ Federation OEB.

“The situation at the port of Larnaca with the unwarranted and provocative strikes carried out in violation of labour procedures, has reached an impasse as a small section of workers systematically chooses the path of conflict, trying to arbitrarily impose its demands, completely disregarding the problems created for traders, other workers, consumers and the economy in general.”

OEB said it has “repeatedly pointed out that the manifestation of such behaviour is possible due to the absence of a regulatory framework for strikes in essential services.”

The Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEBE) echoed these concerns, saying that, “once again the traders from the port of Larnaca are being held captive by an uncontrolled labour group, which only sees its own interest, ignoring the problems and suffering created by its own attitude, holding the economy hostage after it has paralysed the import and export trade.

“This decision of the dock workers and the unions is completely unjustified, irregular and blatantly violates the Industrial Relations Code, as well as the agreement to regulate strikes in essential services,” KEBE said.

The Chamber said that the legislative regulation of strikes in essential services must be implemented.

It called on the government and the parliament to take the necessary initiatives for the immediate promotion of the relevant legislation, to prevent similar unacceptable situations in the future.