Cyprus Air staff given 48 hours to consent to layoffs in restructuring plan

NICOSIA (Reuters) – Staff at troubled Cyprus Airways have been given a 48-hour deadline to accept a restructuring involving hundreds of layoffs, which management says are essential for the airline to stay in business. Authorities say the state-controlled carrier must immediately save 21.8 million Cyprus pounds ($45.4 million) on an annual basis or its days will be numbered. The latest of several restructuring plans calls for around 500 of the company’s 1,800 staff to accept voluntary redundancy. Around 220 employees have shown an interest in leaving, unions say. «We want a yes or a no from unions. No ifs or buts,» company Chairman Lazaros Savvides told Reuters yesterday. Asked what would happen if the unions reject the plan, he said, «We have alternative plans,» without elaborating. The tiny carrier which once dominated the aviation market on the east Mediterranean island has struggled as cheaper competitors elbowed into the market, deregulated since European Union accession. Once seen as a suitor for Greece’s equally troubled Olympic Airways, Cyprus Air incurred heavy losses for the closure of a badly performing unit in Greece last year and a costly fleet renewal in 2002. The restructuring is designed to make a case to European Union regulators for a 58-million-pound government-guaranteed loan. The Cyprus government owns 70 percent of the airline but is prevented from offering a bailout under European Union competition rules.