By Stelios Orphanides
Bank workers union Etyk said it may consider industrial action to force Hellenic Bank to provide more information on its plan to set up APS Recovery Cyprus Ltd and assign it with the management of its €2.4bn worth of non-performing loans.
Etyk, which invited its members working for Hellenic to participate in a general meeting on Wednesday, said it is also angry over the bank’s alleged refusal to pay the annual incremental pay increases and overtime work as well as the outsourcing of IT operations.
“Taking measures was not, and is not an end in itself, but unfortunately the bank’s administration is pushing us with its constant provocative stance, the disdain displayed towards its staff and its clear attempt to diminish unionisation,” the Etyk said in a statement on Friday.
The union has complained in the past for being left in the dark over the bank’s agreement with APS Holdings s.a., a Czech non-performing management specialist, with which it had agreed to set up a subsidiary and staff it with people currently employed in its recovery division. According to the terms of the agreement, announced in January, APS Holding will have a 51 per cent share in the new unit and Hellenic the rest.
A spokesman at Hellenic said the bank’s workers will keep their benefits after they are transferred to APS Recovery.
“We are fully securing our workers’ salaries, the provident fund benefits, and any other rights they are currently enjoying as Hellenic Bank employees,” the spokesman said. “They will continue to be members of Etyk if they want and nobody will be dismissed. If the company’s administration believes that they are not suitable (for the job), they will be transferred back to the bank”.
Setting up a specialised company to handle non-performing loans, which account for six tenths of the bank’s loan portfolio “is in line with European Central Bank guidelines,” the spokesman said, adding that the bank, which will maintain the responsibility for the management of APS Recovery, is willing to give the assurances in writing.
Full implementation of the agreement with APS Holding requires regulatory approval.
With respect to the Etyk’s allegations that workers received no incremental pay increases, the spokesman said they were not provided for in the collective agreement that expired in December.
“It’s a matter of collective agreement, which is under discussion, and we are following the procedure like all other banks,” he said.
In 2015, Hellenic won a major victory against Etyk when Attorney-general Costas Clerides said that the bank was not obliged to consult the union over its intention to appoint managers.