Cyprus Telecoms, Utilities, On Strike

NICOSIA – Workers at Cyprus’ state-owned telecommunications and electricity authorities went on strike for 24 hours to protest government plans to privatize the state-owned enterprises.

Privatization is a key provision of a financial rescue program that Cyprus agreed last year with other euro countries and the International Monetary Fund.

The government on Thursday approved a privatization bill, which now goes to parliament for approval

Some 2,200 Cyprus Telecommunications Authority employees began the strike at midnight on Feb. 13. Another 2,300 Electricity Authority of Cyprus workers will stage a 12-hour strike starting at 7 a.m. local time on Fen. 14.

An Electricity Authority statement said skeleton crews will man two power stations through the strike, but power outages are likely because of reduced output.

Parliament must approve the legislation by the end of the month as a condition for the release of the next tranche the country’s 10 billion euros rescue loan.

These will be the first privatizations in the island nation’s history and have created much unease among workers who feel their jobs and cradle-to-grave benefits might be at stake.

To ease fears, the government has vowed not to sell off the companies on the cheap and to take workers’ demands into account.