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Fresh union action disrupts Limassol port operations.

Two months after the private sector assumed responsibility for its commercial operations, a new labour dispute broke out at Limassol port, as port workers ceased on Saturday to service ships, according to a union official.

The labour action announced by the two major unions SEK and PEO, which the business world condemned, is related to the decision of the consortium led by Dubai Ports World, in charge of general cargo operations, to send its staff to ships at the port, Sek representative Yiannis Tsouris said in a telephone interview on Monday.

Tsouris said the dispute with Dubai Ports, as to who can work at the docks, emerged early February and prompted the intervention of the transport ministry.

That resulted into a truce, which expired on March 31, after negotiations hit a dead end and port workers declined to extend it for three more months, he continued.

Tsouris said that the new labour action at the port is not a strike. "There is no strike at the port," he said adding that the describing the measures as "mobilisation" is more suitable.

"If there was a strike, the port would be closed and no ship would be serviced, no matter what it carried, general cargo or containers," he said. "Port workers simply stopped servicing ships which the operating company sends its own workers to work".

The 110 registered port workers, he continued, are hired by shipping agents. Their profession remains closed after 2008, and they are the only ones "according to the law" who are eligible to load or unload cargo from ships.

The new disruption of the port's operations follows the problems related to the cargo business. When Eurogate, took over the cargo operations two months ago, it was initially unable to cope with the large number of containers, leading to delays in cargo delivery.

The delays were partly attributed to acts of vandalism on the port's equipment carried out by workers who lost their job and partly on new procedures introduced by Eurogate.

An agreement with stakeholders following the intervention of President Nicos Anastasiades in February, and more efforts by Eurogate helped normalise the container business operations.

Employers and Industrialists Federation, known by its Greek acronym OEB, said it is concerned over the union decision for a new strike at the Limassol port.

"The dispute between the company and the unions concerning who has the right to carry out work at the docks was known for long time now and unions rejected a proposal for an extension to help find a solution," OEB said.

"Unfortunately, the unions rejected the proposal and threatened with strikes in an attempt to arbitrarily impose their position by taking advantage the traders' exhaustion following the recent disruption in trade activity," OEB added.

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Apr 3, 2017
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