CYPRUS – The forestry department staged a two-hour strike on Thursday morning, protesting against ongoing understaffing at the department, though the environment ministry announced on Wednesday that 13 new positions for forestry officials will be created to fight fires.
The protest was held from 8.30am until 10.30am while the budget of the agriculture and environment ministry were discussed at the House. The employees marched to the finance ministry after their protest outside the House.
The department welcomed the creation of the 13 positions but said much more needs to be done.
According to forest department officials, the existing staff is 100 employees short of what was projected in 2011.
Regarding these vacancies, there are 43 full-time employees awaiting appointment, the oldest from 2007 and the latest from 2015.
Forestry officials urgently demand the restoration of 27 positions which were abolished in 2012-2015 and that at least half of them are immediately included in the current 2020 state budget bill under discussion as a first phase of the organisational structural rehabilitation of the department.
In a memorandum delivered to the House, the officials voiced their readiness and determination to fight in any lawful manner, not excluding the escalation of measures, in order to restore the staffing of the department to a safe level for the benefit of the conservation and protection of forests.
According to an earlier statement, at present the situation is dangerous as the department is responsible for the management of forests and also for the prevention and fighting of forest fires, something they are left to carry out while seriously understaffed.
To be effective, more staff are needed and there needs to be a movement away from the exhausting and dangerous 60 to 70-hour working week which is in place now.