Etyk says government broke a promise (it never gave)

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By Stelios Orphanides

Bank workers union Etyk has criticised Finance Minister Harris Georgiades, citing a government pledge to fully recompense provident fund members whose money was affected by the deposit seizure supposedly made weeks after the 2013 banking crisis.

But the union has so far failed to back the claim with evidence.

Bank workers who took to the streets on Tuesday to protest against the government’s decision not to fully compensate provident fund members for their lost deposits said President Nicos Anastasiades and Georgiades had assured them the government would give ‘immediate and full’ compensation to the funds, Etyk said in a statement on its website.

“It is not the ‘decisive government efforts’ that secured bank jobs but the workers’ struggles under the umbrella and guidance of Etyk,” the union said.

“Unless of course, it is referring to his letter/commitment dated May 5, 2013, in which the colleagues believed (and) left the bank and (the commitment) was also trimmed, negatively affecting more than 200.”

The evidence the union provided does little to corroborate its allegations. In a letter to former House speaker Yiannakis Omirou, seen by the Cyprus Business Mail, Georgiades said the ‘objective’ of the government efforts was ‘to limit losses for affected fund members to 25 per cent of the amount that would correspond to each member’ if the funds hadn’t suffered losses in the crisis.

Georgiades – who announced an additional €20 million last week to compensate provident funds for their losses on top of the €300m made available in 2013 and €168m pledged in July – criticised the union for being ungrateful after it staged a march to the presidential palace on Tuesday.

The union, the minister said, was ignoring that ‘thanks to the government’s efforts, no bank worker was fired’ in 2013 when the second largest Cypriot lender, the Popular Bank (Laiki), went out of business.

Last year, Anastasiades pledged to cover 75 per cent of the funds’ losses. The scheme announced in July provided for compensation of up to 75 per cent of the members’ losses and included a €100,000 cap per person to avoid treating beneficiaries better than depositors.

The cabinet decided last week to relax the criteria for those had who already left Bank of Cyprus, which absorbed Laiki’s operations and staff. Under the new scheme, the number of fund members who would not fully recoup their benefits dropped to fewer than 300 from 1,900.

Georgiades also said that Bank of Cyprus could compensate those provident fund members who continue to work for it as part of an internal negotiation.

Etyk said Cyprus’s largest bank said it would do so on condition the union, known for its militant rhetoric and practices, would consent to introducing an incentive-oriented remuneration scheme.

In a separate statement, Etyk said it demanded respect from every government and made clear that ‘those who fight Etyk and bank workers are not friends and they will be dealt with accordingly’.

The European Commission and the Fiscal Council warned that while compensating provident funds would have a limited impact on the budget, it could potentially create systemic risks.

The bank workers’ provident funds repeatedly ignored their supervisor’s advice to avoid risk concentration before the crisis and kept their members’ savings deposited at the respective banks they worked for.

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About Author

Stelios Orphanides is a journalist at CyprusBusinessMail.com. To contact Stelios Orphanides: [email protected]