Source AP ©

24-hour strike to engulf Cyprus Airways ground staff

A 24-hour strike will be organized by some 140 Cyprus Airways ground staff next week to protest the airline's plans to outsource ground handling services.

Ground staff will walk off the job on Dec. 12 and hold a 48-hour walkout Dec. 17-18 if the airline doesn't reconsider a deal with the Swissport & GAP Vassilopoulos consortium to outsource ground handling at the island's two airports in Larnaca and Paphos.

The airline said 12,000 passengers would be travelling on 107 flights over the three days of strike action. Cyprus Airways said 70 percent of its flights were flying into Cyprus and would be unaffected by the stoppage.

It said it was making arrangements to allow passengers to fly from Cyprus but said in a statement: "If need be, our aircraft will fly empty to specific destinations to ferry inbound passengers."

Union members fear that outsourcing of ground handling would mean lay-offs, but the cash-strapped airline insists it would save money without job cuts. Union chief Andreas Pierides said the strike could be averted if ground handlers remain Cyprus Airways employees.

"We're ready to talk and prevent the strike until the last minute," Pierides said.