The Lefkoşa Municipality workers launched a strike after the municipality failed to pay workers' salaries for two months amid financial troubles. The strike has turned Lefkoşa into a dumping ground, prompting the government to hold an extraordinary session on Tuesday to discuss measures.
Following the meeting, the government announced that the strike had been postponed for two months out of public health concerns, angering the striking workers. A group of workers marched to the municipality building in protest of the government's decision to postpone the strike and clashed with police. Twenty policemen were injured in the melee and five workers were detained.
The police announced that the workers were detained on charges of "rioting, willful damage and assaulting a police officer."
The municipality workers' strike underlines the lingering economic hardships. Last year, thousands of Turkish Cypriots attended a demonstration to protest austerity measures backed by Ankara, which supports the Turkish Cypriot economy by sending a sizable amount of financial aid every year.
Responding to the violence following the government's decision, KKTC Prime Minister İrsen Küçük said his government would not hesitate to take the “harshest measures” to prevent the country from being dragged into chaos and to “protect public interests.”
“Our government will not allow a culture of confrontation to be adopted instead of dialogue in resolving problems and will not let out country descend into chaos,” Küçük said in a statement.
He also stated that a month's salary would be put into the bank accounts of the employees.
In addition to the municipality workers, the Turkish Cyprus Gasoline Union also staged a protest, refusing to sell gas to customers in protest of new regulations that lift previous restrictions regarding the location of gas stations. Under the old regulations, it was forbidden to build a gas station within seven kilometers of the nearest station. The amended regulations impose no restrictions on where gas stations can be built.
Cars formed long queues in front of gas stations in the KKTC as most drivers did not know about the gas stations' protest.