Cyprus faces a shutdown Wednesday, March 28, with no flights and banks closed as thousands of civil servants and semi-government workers stage a 24-strike in protest at plans to introduce a national health service.
Most of the 20,000 Cypriots employed in the bloated and much-criticized public sector will not show up for work because they want to keep their own health plan and not pay obligatory contributions to the proposed state scheme.
With air traffic controllers among the strikers, flights to and from the Mediterranean tourist island will be paralyzed. Schools, hospitals and banks will also be hit, and government offices will be shut until Thursday.
"There will be no blackouts as a skeleton staff will be on duty but faults will take longer to prepare," Electricity Authority spokesman Tassos Roussos told AFP. "If the strike goes ahead the airports will be paralyzed, we hope they change their minds," Cyprus Airways spokesman Tassos Angeli said.
Civil servants also enjoy free health care while bank staff and state utility employees, as well as being among the highest salary earners on the island, enjoy comprehensive private health cover and do not need to queue up in overcrowded state hospitals.
The government is trying to push its pioneering national health scheme through parliament in the teeth of opposition from the communists and the center-right Diko party. If all the other parties vote in favor it would still only give the government a majority of one. — (AFP, Nicosia)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)