NICOSIA Feb 14 Hundreds of Cypriot state
utility and port workers walked off the job on Friday over the
government's privatisation plans, in the first mass protest
against the terms of an international bailout brokered almost a
Staff at Cyprus telecoms CyTA and the Cyprus Ports Authority
called a 24-hour strike, and the electricity authority a 12-hour
stoppage from 0700 local time (0500 GMT).
Electricity transmission operators said some rolling
blackouts were likely.
Cyprus's cabinet approved on Thursday a roadmap to privatise
all three corporations. Under the terms of the bailout brokered
with the EU and the IMF, the island nation must raise up to 1.4
billion euros from privatisations by 2018.
"Cyprus cannot be forced into fire sales of its assets in
times of recession," said Andreas Panorkos, a representative of
The protest was rare in a country which has seen little
industrial or social unrest in response to a bailout whose terms
were tough even by euro zone standards.
In return for 10 billion euros in aid which pulled it back
from the brink of bankruptcy, Cyprus had to shut a major
loss-making bank, and eat into depositors' savings above 100,000
euros to salvage another.
Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said strike action risked
undermining the good image Cyprus had with its lenders because
of its commitment to face its economic problems head on.
The island has received plaudits for its economic
adjustment, most recently on Tuesday, when a review found Cyprus
had exceeded its targets.
Passage of the privatisation plan by parliament is necessary
for Cyprus to receive the next tranche of aid worth 236 million.
It was due to be discussed in parliament next week.
"We need to take this step not only to meet obligations with
lenders, but also to attract investment," Georgiades told the
public broadcaster. Workers' rights would in no way be affected,