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Port workers put strike action on hold

Port workers in Limassol have decided to suspend strike action pending a Wednesday meeting with the Communications Minister Marios Demetriades following their disagreement with terminal operator DP World.

The workers announced their decision late on Monday with SEK union official Titos Timotheou saying that in view of the 4.30pm Wednesday meeting with Demetriades, the industrial action had been temporarily postponed.

The workers and their union representatives will decide how to move ahead immediately after their meeting with the minister, Timotheou said.

The port workers had previously given a March 31 deadline for a solution to their dispute with DP World Limassol.

It is understood that the company wants to lease services for work on the docks by seeking contracts with third parties, essentially putting an end to a closed shop mentality.

But veteran port workers point to an earlier agreement to argue they should have full rights to the dock area, effectively saying no to any third party getting work in the port.

The company said initially that port workers can work with cargo on ships but later caved in to demands and accepted that 50% of the dock area could be used by port workers.

But during a loading of a particular shipment on Sunday, involving specialised piping for Egypt’s Zohr gas field, it emerged that port workers and management still had not resolved their differences.

Port workers believe the dock area ought to be 100% available for their own use, citing a previous agreement they had with stevedores where they shared the area 50-50.

Just before port privatisation last year, stevedores were paid off by the government to make way for a new system. Essentially they retired with a generous compensation package just before DP World took over on conditions it would have more freedom to lease services and cut costs.

The company says it already made a big compromise by offering 50% of the dock labour to port workers, but they have refused to have what they view as half privileges.

Port workers say their agreement on 50-50 with Licenced Stevedores dating back to 1997 is now null and void, arguing that the 50% share cannot be given to anyone else and they are by default the rightful owners of 100% use of the dock area.

DP World maintains that it has legal opinions from independent consultants as well as transport ministry officials, confirming that port worker unions are not legally entitled to certain areas of operations at the Limassol port.

The latest industrial action at Limassol port came only months after President Nicos Anastasiades had to step in himself to broker a deal between truckers and the management, with a political backdrop of opposition parties pointing fingers at privatisation while the minister calling for patience and cooler heads.

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