There is no end in sight in the bitter division within J&P Overseas, with one executive drawing on the company’s old glory to save the company while another pointing to mismanagement and threatening to take legal action.
The issue is a promise made to sell assets in order to get hard cash and pay workers who have been receiving the short end of the stick for many months.
But first things first.
Papathomas is calling for the sale of the company’s share in Queen Alia airport but Ioannou appears to challenge the move
The problem with the J&P came to light last year when Kathimerini Cyprus broke the story on financial difficulties within the Saudi Arabia branch. As a result, last winter, employees in Riyadh but also in Cyprus were left unpaid for months.
Unpaid and disgruntled workers finally received their December and January salaries, within the last couple of months, putting an end to their four month long wait without any payment that extended beyond Easter.
But the money is still hard to come by, with J&P having to reach deep within its cluster of business ventures to pay up workers.
His response was prompted by a series of desperate letters by disgruntled employees in Riyadh, who blamed the company for workers not being paid for months, not having adequate health care, and not being able to sort out their legal status in the Kingdom, among other issues.
Executive director Andreas Papathomas vowed to do whatever necessary in a response to employees back in March, assuring them that management would do anything possible to fix the problem including selling company assets.
In a letter dated 25 April, parts of which have been published by Kathimerini, Papathomas is calling for the sale of the company’s share in Queen Alia airport in Jordan.
But the move appears to be challenged by Christos Ioannou, who represents the Joannou family in the J&P Group (Joannou & Paraskevaides) that has 20% participation in the BOT (build–operate–transfer) concession.
Ioannou is said to be exploring legal options against Papathomas, blaming the executive director of mismanagement and a series of actions that have threatened the group’s future.
Papathomas wrote in his letter, addressing colleagues and workers, that the sale of the share would bring €120 million and further adding that such a decision would be “fair” and “completely reasonable” in accordance with the company’s best practices and historic standing.
J&P going through a rough patch
J&P had previously cut down on working hours from 10 back to 8 hours per day, which translated to a 20% salary cut. This could have added to the bucket list of reasons for workers going on strike.
But after a leak of a series of letters to J&P executive director Andreas Papathomas, rumours emerged that there was a major power play going on inside the company, as different factions who inherited the colossal business are now taking different positions and have been investing in diametrically opposite strategies.
Even President Nicos Anastasiades got involved when he paid an on-site visit to the Cypriot-owned company during his January visit to the Kingdom.
At the time, it was widely reported that the recent crackdown on corruption, led by the Saudi King, was one of the reasons J&P could not pay workers. A number of businessmen were imprisoned and that set in motion a major upset in the financial vitality of the rich city.