By Stelios Orphanides
Bank workers’ union ETYK informed Cypriot banks that it wants its members’ benefits restored to pre-crisis levels, which may result to pay increases of up to 18 per cent.
The union informed lenders with a letter following the expiration of the previous collective agreement on December 31, that it also wants a reduction of working hours to 35 hours, which is 2 hours less compared to now.
The union declined to comment when contacted by the Cyprus Business Mail. An employer source familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity described the union’s demands as “excessive”.
The list of ETYK’s demands, which “are in the double-digits”, are “indicative of their intentions and are not promising for the banking sector, which is still recovering from the 2013 crisis,” the employer source said. “The losses suffered by shareholders and depositors are huge and it will take time for wounds to heal”.
Still, a source familiar with the thinking of ETYK said that the demand for the restoration of earnings, which had been cut up to 15 per cent as a result of the banking crisis four years ago, when depositors at then second largest bank Cyprus Popular Bank lost all their uninsured deposits while those at Bank of Cyprus, largest Cypriot bank saw almost half of their deposits converted to equity, is a formal process ahead of negotiations.
“Every time a collective agreement expires, demands are raised at the negotiation table,” he said on condition of anonymity, citing the sensitivity of the matter, said. “As it happens every time, banks will calculate the financial impact of these demands ahead of the negotiation”.
“Among workers, there is a sense that they have to raise demands which have a cost,” the source continued.
This will be the first negotiation ETYK will carry out with each bank separately since a group representing the employer side in collective negotiations with ETYK was dissolved after several banks followed Bank of Cyprus’s walkout.
While banks are expected to also raise demands at the negotiating table, and still keep their cards closed, it is expected that they will table issues related to automatic pay rises received by bank workers, either in the form of compensation for the loss of purchasing power from inflation or incremental salary raises based on seniority, the employer source said. “They will also demand that pay rises granted to workers automatically after they attend a course and get an additional qualification also be scrapped”.
The employer source added that banks will also demand concessions that will allow smoother operations in the banking sector and include restrictions in overtime employment, part-time and seasonal employment, and outsourcing, which are “rigidities that always troubled banks”.