Drivers in Cyprus began a nationwide indefinite strike yesterday, to demand the wages they've yet to be paid for January. The government was locked in negotiations with the bus operators all day yesterday and by last night drivers in the city of Larnaca had agreed to suspend their action. The other bus companies said they would make an official statement today.
Those drivers still on strike remain determined. “We shall not back down” was the prevailing sentiment among roughly 170 strikers at the main station in Solomou Square in Nicosia. “The payment of our salary is our unequivocal right” wrote most placards.
“Every month it’s the same old story, it’s unbelievable that we have to go on strike to demand the bare minimum from our work, which is our wage” said Sotiroulla Andreou, one of five female bus drivers working on rural destinations from Nicosia.
“It’s the first of the month and I haven’t been paid, bills are piling up, fuel prices are going up and the Electricity Authority is threatening to impose fines on late payments and I don’t know what to do,” said Nikos Panayiotou, a bus driver and father of four.
“How are we going to pay our bills on time and not incur fines when we are not paid?” questioned Andrekos Stephanou, a bus driver wearing an eighties mullet hairstyle.
“The ministry and the bus company are completely detached from reality and they don’t understand that without wages, people have no money to buy the bare necessities,” Athos Malas, another bus driver said. Stelios Stephanides, who emigrated to Cyprus a few years ago described, almost in tears how with a wage of roughly €1,200, and with his wife currently receiving a disability pension of around €200, he was struggling to make ends meet.
“We are not asking anything unreasonable. We are neither the crème de la crème of the civil service nor air traffic controllers, and we are not demanding pay rises or benefits, simply that we are paid our wages” said Andreas Stylianou.
The bus drivers said that public transport lacked the correct planning and infrastructure and said that a possible nationalisation of the service could solve some of the issues.