CA pilots to strike



A CLOUD hangs over the future of Cyprus Airways with pilots threatening strike action for February 9, claiming the company has reneged on its promises.

Angry pilots union Pasipy accuse management of moving the goalposts over what was agreed as part of the restructuring plan.

They argue pilots are being made the scapegoats.

Pilots say they accepted one version of the plan but the company is enforcing another scheme they did not agree to.

On the other side of the argument, the airline says nothing has changed and the survival plan remains as agreed by all the unions.

As a "warning", pilots will strike between 4pm-to-8pm next Thursday with a suggestion action could escalate if the deadlock continues.
Four flights will be affected by the stoppage and contingency plans are being drawn up to ensure the public is not unduly inconvenienced.

The dispute couldn't have come at a worse time for Cyprus Airways.

Earlier this week, Finance Minister Michalis Sarris and Communications Minister Harris Thrassou were in Brussels to secure an EU-approved loan guarantee.

The government has urged the pilots not to take industrial action as it could damage efforts to breathe new life into the ailing carrier.
However, the call to keep the gunpowder dry fell on deaf ears.

Crisis talks on Wednesday failed to break the ice, and Pasipy chief Polis Economou said the strike would go ahead unless management kept to its initial agreement.

Pasipy is ready to report the government to the European Commission and seek possible legal action.

But the government insists the restructuring plan will not changed one iota.

Government spokesman George Lillikas said the view from Brussels was positive but the pilots strike created "serious problems" in getting the EU green light.

He said the plan pilots voted in favour of, is the same one being implemented today.

"Claims that the government, or ministers, broke their pledge to the pilots do not stand up to scrutiny," said Lillikas.

Cyprus Airways' austere restructuring plan aims at ditching nearly 400 jobs and pay cuts of up to 25% - with pilots taking the brunt of slashed salary.



Buy-out

The redundancies will kick-in from March while the pay cuts were enforced from the start of the year.

The government buy-out of charter subsidiary Eurocypria gives it alternative option if the tough restructuring plan fails to save the national carrier from bankruptcy.

The cash-strapped airline is currently losing Θ25m a year and needs to cut costs and improve revenue.

Saving the national carrier is seen as crucial to the tourism industry, which is a key contributor to the economy.

The government seeks to slash the workforce by 385 staff, while offering a better severance package.

Reducing the 1,600-strong staff, cutting wages, scrapping or decreasing allowances and perks, plus bringing in outsourcing are part of the economy drive to save Θ21m annually.

Unions have yet to be convinced that the airline can turn losses into profit.

The company presented its business strategy to Brussels last November, so the European Commission could approve a government loan guarantee of Θ70m.

Tough competition following liberalisation after the island's May 2004 EU entry, coupled with losses incurred by its Greek subsidiary Hellas Jet, forced Cyprus Airways to lighten the load.

That involved downsizing the fleet by two Airbus A320s and shedding Hellas, plus loss-making routes were also scrapped.