THE Archbishop warned yesterday that he was prepared to shut down the Church-controlled beverage company KEO, as a dispute over layoffs seemed to be heading to the labour ministry’s mediating service.

Chrysostomos said he had ordered the company’s management not to make any further concessions and “from then on I do not think it is wise to proceed and I prefer to close down KEO today than have it shut down two or three years later.”

Workers at KEO have been striking for almost a week over the company’s plan to sack 150 staff without compensation.

“Either the 150 are dismissed or the company closes; there is no other choice and they should realise this or else all 550 will go,” Chrysostomos told reporters.

He conceded the company had been mismanaged and workers received “super privileges”.

The primate’s warning came as the two sides rejected each other’s proposals, prompting unions to ask for the labour ministry’s intervention. A meeting has been set at the ministry for today at 8am but it was not clear if KEO would attend.

KEO “is loss-making and I do not intend to sell company property so that it can survive and close down a few years later,” Chrysostomos said. “They should realise, the super-privileges should stop.”

Responding to a suggestion that employees on €680 do not have super privileges, the Archbishop said there is no one on a €680 salary.

“They all make thousands and I am not going to analyse the super privileges now; the management can do that,” Chrysostomos said.

Initially the company said it would not give any compensation but on Monday it offered workers some €2.5 million in compensation and cut the number of layoffs to 120.

As part of the proposal, the company employees had to agree to pay and benefits cuts for the next three years.

Unions rejected the offer saying compensation should be disconnected from the collective agreements.

Unions said €1.5 million out of the €2.5 offered by the company would effectively come from the pay cuts it wanted workers to accept.

Left-wing union PEO representative Charalambos Pratsis said the workers were saddened by the Archbishop’s “inflammatory comments”.

Pratsis suggested Chrysostomos had been misinformed over the salaries and privileges.

He said if anyone is making thousands they probably belong to the management and there was no such thing as super privileges.

“There is a good collective agreement at KEO… almost the same give or take as in all wineries in Cyprus,” Pratsis said. “We cannot see any super privileges at KEO in relation to any other company.”

The Ministry of Labour is making a new effort to sort out a dispute over 150 redundancies at Keo.
The Director of the Department of Industrial Relations of the Ministry of Labour, Andreas Milonas was expected to put forward a new mediation proposal.
Beforehand he met unions for an initial sounding.
He also had telephone contacts with the company, and a meetuing was due to be held at the ministry.
The Minister of Labour, Sotiroula Charalambous said that the mediation service is available to both sides and is trying hard to find a solution.

 Source: Cyprus Mail and Cyprus Weekly

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