Banks’ trade unions start­ing to get rest­less with bosses

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Trade unions of bank em­ploy­ees are pre­par­ing for a con­fronta­tion with man­age­ment at Hel­lenic Bank and Bank of Cyprus as the restruc­tured banks want to em­ploy uni­ver­sally ac­cepted work­ing hours and pay scales in or­der to re­gain their com­pet­i­tive­ness.

The bank em­ploy­ees are try­ing to strengthen their ne­go­ti­at­ing po­si­tion with the dual tac­tic of pre­par­ing for a con­flict with Hel­lenic Bank and of re­frain­ing from ne­go­ti­a­tions with Bank of Cyprus, the busi­ness site Stock­watch re­ported.

Other re­ports sug­gest that nearly 97% of staff at Hel­lenic who be­long to the ETYK trade union have au­tho­rised their rep­re­sen­ta­tives to deal with the bank’s man­age­ment, that is al­leged to have de­manded that staff work longer hours with­out over­time pay.

This is also the rea­son why both bank of Cyprus and Hel­lenic Bank aban­doned the Cyprus Bankers’ As­so­ci­a­tion and sought di­rect ne­go­ti­a­tions with the staff, as the as­so­ci­a­tion has signed a col­lec­tive labour agree­ment that obliges all mem­ber banks to ad­here to the labour packages.

Hel­lenic Bank’s CEO Bert Pi­jls told the Cyprus Mail ear­lier this week that he favours ex­tend­ing op­er­at­ing hours of the bank’s branch net­work as well as over­haul­ing em­ployee pay in a way that will re­ward pro­duc­tiv­ity, two po­si­tions that are likely to fur­ther anger the ETYK union.

“We have in­ter­nally dis­cussed this, both at ex­ec­u­tive level and board level,” Pi­jls said, adding that a “ma­te­rial” ex­ten­sion of open­ing hours could also re­sult in the cre­ation of more jobs. “It is one of the things that we say ‘yes, one day, we want to have longer hours’ but in terms of whether I have con­crete plans to dis­cuss with the unions, we are not that far yet”.

In the case of Hel­lenic Bank, the trade union has in­creased the pres­sure with staff ab­stain­ing from any over­time work and turn­ing to the Labour Min­istry to re­solve the dis­pute.

At the Bank of Cyprus, ETYK has frozen talks and can­celled a meet­ing sched­uled for last Fri­day within the con­text of the re­new­ing the col­lec­tive agree­ment that ex­pired on 31 De­cem­ber last year.

ETYK ac­cuses the bank’s ad­min­is­tra­tion of try­ing to elim­i­nate the pay scales, cost-of-living al­lowance, pro­mo­tions, a cut of con­tri­bu­tions to the prov­i­dent fund and chang­ing work­ing hours. The trade union said it has no fi­nan­cial claims. ETYK also ac­cused Hel­lenic Bank for vi­o­lat­ing the pro­vi­sions of the col­lec­tive agree­ment re­lated to staff re­cruit­ment is­sues from out­side the bank. The union has in­sisted in past years that all non-staff pro­mo­tions or new hir­ing first get its own ap­proval, a con­di­tion that seem lu­di­crous in present cir­cum­stances.

Next Fri­day, the Bank of Cyprus board is ex­pected to as­sess, among oth­ers, the sta­tus of the labour re­la­tions with ETYK and pos­si­bly to de­ter­mine its own tac­tics.

Wed­nes­day’s AGM at Hel­lenic Bank may also deal with the dis­pute.

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