AS MANY as 3,000 construction workers in Paphos could lose their jobs in the coming months if there is no turnaround in the real-estate slump, a survey of companies in the area has found.
The survey was carried out by ACMA Consultants on behalf of the Paphos Building Contractors Association. It found that out of the 100 companies polled, 95 said they would be laying people off in the next few months if the economic situation did not improve.
There are a total of 280 such companies registered in Paphos, and the Association has 120 as members.
Antonis Petrides, the president of the association said the results of the survey were “startling”.
“Over the next three months you will see a huge increase in the number of unemployed in Paphos. After April we are really going to see the full force of the problem,” he said. “Paphos was where the developing boom took place, and we have thousands of workers living and working here, in all aspects connected with this sector.”
ACMA asked the 100 firms who took part if they had already felt the negative effects of the financial crisis. Around 20 had not but 80 said they had.
“We then asked if they thought the financial crisis would affect them in the next six months,” ACMA’s Christos Marcou said, “One hundred per cent said yes.”
The participants were asked if they felt they would have to lay people off. Only 13 of the companies said they were not willing to. The remaining 87 said they would probably have to lay off staff, while 26 of those said they already had.
According to Marcou the layoffs totalled 951.
The next round of layoffs would likely be subcontractors, Marcou said. Out of the 100 companies polled, 95 used subcontractors for woodframe makers, piping and steel work.
“We asked if the crisis continues would they fire these workers. Ninety five per cent said yes and twenty nine per cent of those are doing so now,” he said.
The remainder said they would have to lay off subcontractors over the next six months.
The total number of sub contractors facing unemployment is 1,577.
“If you add these figures together, this means 2,528 people working in the building industry in Paphos, losing their jobs over the next few months,” Marcou said.
He said personally he thought the international crisis was a disaster for Cyprus.
“There will be a panic if action isn’t taken now,” he added.
“British people want to move back to the UK because property prices are lower there. Here, there are no sales of new projects and there is no money to purchase re-sales. In addition, the banks have frozen loans. It’s terrible.”
Petrides said the association had passed on the results of the study to the government, and asked them to give Paphos more funding to start more developments. These included roads and schools.
“Many people have given their promise to help us, including the Mayor, Savvas Vergas, but as yet we haven’t seen the results. The local government is reliant on central government, and they have their own rhythm of doing things. It’s very slow,” he said.
“The local council can say they will speed up their projects. The will may be there, but they have to wait for decisions from the government.”
Petrides said that workers in Paphos fall into three categories. The first consisted of Cypriots and Europeans, who work and contribute to the social insurance fund.
The second were people who live there legally but who don’t make any social insurance payments. And the final section consisted of illegal immigrants.
“We have many illegal immigrants here,” said Petrides. “The government and the police must crack down…on those working illegally. Some are in the building sector. They must be deported. We have to minimise the impact on the legal workers, and I believe this is the first step.”
Paphos labour office has also seen a huge increase in clients over the last two months, an employee there told the Sunday Mail.
“It’s so busy here now. It’s usually busier during the winter months as a lot of people are seasonal workers. But this year is different. There are many people out of work, and these are from all sectors. I think the crisis has started already, but I’m sure this is only the beginning,” said the employee, who wished to remain anonymous.
“The social insurance car park is full and overflowing on a daily basis, with cars queuing for spaces every morning.”
The employee said most of the people who were turning up worked on building construction sites, hotels and the services sector. Around 60 per cent were construction workers. Hotel workers comprised the next biggest percentage.
Most of the unemployed were Pontian, Georgian and Russian, with Cypriots and other EU nationals from Bulgaria, Romania and Eastern Europe making up the rest.
“The problem is, people said when the building boom finished these foreign nationals would go home. But this isn’t the case. For example the Pontians and Georgians now have a community here and they can get social benefits. They aren’t going to leave Cyprus,” said the employee.
“We can’t just employ people here and use them, dumping them in a crisis. I know we have to look after Cypriots, but I think if someone is here legally and has worked and paid social insurance, they should be treated just as the locals. We’re European now.”
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