Banks’ trade unions starting to get restless with bosses
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.