As Co-op, Hellenic talks near conclusion, unions step in (Update-1)

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(Updates with government spokesman comment in third paragraph)

By Stelios Orphanides

 

Talks between Hellenic Bank and the Cyprus Cooperative Bank for the acquisition of the latter’s operations have made progress, and as a sign that negotiations are about to be concluded, the government agreed to talk to unions representing affected workers, sources said.

Representative of the unions SEK, PEO and Pasydy, representing the bulk of the 2,650 Co-op workers are scheduled to meet President Nicos Anastasiades on Thursday to receive assurances about the future employment status of those who will continue working for Hellenic, or the unhealthy part of the Co-op that will manage its non-performing loans portfolio and will be converted into a bad bank, representatives of two unions said. A first meeting, scheduled for Monday, was cancelled.

“The meeting with the unions will take place only if the deal is concluded,” government spokesman Prodromos Prodromou said according to a transcript of his comments to reporters on Tuesday emailed by the Press and Information Office. “The general assurance that the government has given that the worker rights will be protected, is still in place”.

The union representatives said that they also want to receive assurances from Anastasiades that the government will compensate about 1,000 Co-op workers, equal to the number of jobs the state-owned bank would have to otherwise cut as part of its restructuring plan, in an equally generous manner as Bank of Cyprus and Hellenic Bank compensated employees who benefited from recent voluntary retirement schemes.

“We are nearing the end of the (takeover) procedure without having any official information and therefore we thought that we should seek a meeting with the President,” Savvas Toulloupos, head of the PEO branch representing workers in the services sector said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

The unions had previously received “written assurances from the Cyprus Cooperative Bank and the finance ministry that the staff would be a foremost priority,” he said. “We have already taken our decisions. If we are not happy on Thursday, we will take massive and dynamic measures”.

His counterpart at SEK Elysseos Michael said that the unions will only consider a compensation plan as satisfactory if it is on a voluntary basis and takes into account a worker’s years of service, remaining years of service before retirement, age and earnings.

On top, just like in the cases of similar schemes offered by Hellenic and Bank of Cyprus, benefits must be exempted from tax, Michael said.

The Cyprus Business Mail understands that Hellenic intends to reduce, following the merger, the number of workers it will receive from the Co-op which is part of its commitment to regulators.

In the meantime, talks between Hellenic, one of the two bidders to acquire the Co-op’s healthy part, which includes the performing loan portfolio of around €5bn, government bonds in the possession of the Co-op with their value in excess of €4bn, and customer deposits of over €11bn, a source familiar with the matter said.

The government is currently in talks with Hellenic about ways to offset the funding gap between the value of the assets and deposits that Hellenic will assume, the source added.

While the takeover will increase the size of Hellenic’s balance sheet, by absorbing the Co-op’s performing loans, it will reduce the bank’s non-performing loans from over 52 per cent at the end of March to around one fifth of the total, the source said.

The Cyprus Business Mail understands that the other competing bid submitted by Apollo Capital Management is less likely to succeed.

While government spokesman Prodromou declined to comment on the actual negotiations, he said that that they aim at protecting “people’s deposits at the Cyprus Cooperative Bank and to safeguard financial stability and the economy’s prospects”.

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About Author

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

  • Bob Ellis

    Two rotten banks and unions. If ever there were a recipe for a disaster…..

    • Anders Yuran

      Cyprys need a Margereth Thatcher who can finally put the unions in place before they destroy the country

      • Bob Ellis

        The unions are a small part of a much bigger problem. Not even a Thatcher, rightly or wrongly, can not save us now.

      • Neroli

        The country is destroyed

  • Trevor

    Guess the only thing to do is spend our incomes . If you keep it under the mattress,you will be robbed ,if you put it in the bank , same thing ! Only bring to Cyprus what you need .

    • Neroli

      That’s what we all do!

  • Barry White

    Looney tunes, again.

    Tax free. Why not wipe out taxes for everyone, throw in a 25% wage rise for all Civil Servants and life will be perfect.

    • Didier Ouzaid

      Well, smile all your want but they’ll get it. Untaxed taxpayers money, the ultimate irony.

      It’s not like taxpayers are gonna demonstrate in anger, chastise the unions or or cast a different vote next time. It’s just a minor media-infused pill to swallow, and they all will.

      • Neroli

        Don’t forget majority of Cypriots have family ‘working’ either in government or in the banks!

  • Neroli

    Maybe a new car thrown in as well. Tax free benefits?

  • Colin Evans

    Just let the Co-op Bank go into the insolvency that it is and ALL the staff would then be redundant. Let’s see just what the parasitic Bank Union would do about that.

  • Copernicus

    How the CM journalist presents that the there are two competing bids is beyond belief. With whom has the government been negotiating all this time? How naive can the journalist be that there are two competing bids. Apollo probably pulled out the minute they realised that it was a done deal with HB and they had no chance. The government could not impose on Apollo what it proposes doing with the workers at the Co Op nor what the real equity required. Now we are led to believe that the real equity is much less so that HB gets the deal. Who are they kidding? Do they take everyone to be idiots on this island?

    • Neroli

      Yep!

      • Eye on Cyprus

        Another ‘Yep!’ here.

    • A is B

      Yes

    • Evergreen

      Quite so.

  • A is B

    Damned unions again, they won’t be happy until Cyprus really is finished.

    • Copernicus

      Unions are doing what they have to for their members. It is the politicians who are to blame who encourage this practice. It dates back to Makarios era when he resolved most issues of unions. The Co Op could have been allowed to go down and they union members would be without a job but which politician has the cocones to let the Co Op go down. In the case of Laiki they accused Demetriades of keeping the bank in the ICU whereas it would have been much worse if Laiki was let in uncrolled bankruptcy. This government has more than double standards can express! Lack of any integrity especially the MOF who was assuring the public that all was well and he was going to sell 25% on the stock exchange!

      • A is B

        I am all for unions and workers rights but the unions in Cyprus have to much power and don’t represent all equally.

        • Copernicus

          The bank and civil servants unions are the worst and they have been privileged to have the salaries and benefits they enjoy. The sooner the banks demand no hiring if they are union members the better. Staff must perform or they will lose their job. The private sector cannot be protected like the civil servants which is what has happened in Cyprus with banks allowing this as we saw in Laiki and BoC.

          • A is B

            Totally agree.

  • Copernicus

    The quote in Greek below is from the bird brain spokesman>

    «Αυτό που χρειάζεται, και είναι υποχρέωση της χώρας μας απέναντι στις ευρωπαϊκές Αρχές, είναι να ενισχυθεί η Συνεργατική Κυπριακή Τράπεζα με κεφάλαια.

    Essentially what the full statement says is that what is needed, and it is an obligation toward the European authorities, that the Co Op be supported with capital for the benefit of the depositors and financial stability. The real question a journalist had to ask the spokesman would be why was the Minister of Finance trying to sell a bank which was bludgeoned with such high NPLs and they hired advisors and auditors to prepare an Information Memorandum for a bank which has been very financially unsound. Or did they realise the problem in the last few months? Remember the assurances given when leaked accounts of the troubles of the CO Op were reported? The EU authorities would have resolved the CO Op but HG rushed and made his deposit!

  • peemdubya

    Only in Cyprooos would unions have a meeting with the President to thrash out issues – where is the Minister of Employment / whoever, that deals with employment issues?