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Our View: Struggling Bank of Cyprus is hardly in a position to offer golden handshakes

EVERY time there is a need for a big organisation to get rid of significant numbers of staff, the adjective ‘voluntary’ is always put in front of early retirement and resignation by union bosses. In other words, only if a worker wants to leave would the company that is obliged to reduce staff numbers, get rid of him or her. The implication is that if a worker wants to stay the employer does not have the right to make him or her redundant.

Is there any law that forces a company in financial difficulties to hand redundancy notices only to workers who want to leave, is there any such provision in collective agreements or is it a worker’s human right not to be made redundant against his wishes? The answer is no, but union bosses like to bring it up to show off their power and remind everyone that they are in control, while everyone plays along lest they are accused of being anti-worker.

This is part of the same package as the ‘generous compensations’, demanded by union bosses for those who are made redundant. A company has no legal obligation to pay them but this does not stop union bosses from demanding them. Events at Cyprus Airways in the last few days have debunked these myths. The company could not afford to pay any extra compensation and only some 70 of the 400-plus staff that would be made redundant volunteered to leave.

The mighty boss of the bank employees union ETYK is adopting the same discourse with regard to the downsizing of the Bank of Cyprus, which is expected to get rid of more than a thousand workers in the first phase of redundancies. What are the chances that a thousand bank employees would volunteer to leave? The ETYK boss, is also trying to negotiate generous compensation packages to make up volunteer numbers, but is the struggling Bank of Cyprus in the financial position to offer golden handshakes?

Those days are gone. The bank does not need the co-operation or blessing of ETYK which has become an irrelevance. Management should make redundant the employees that are less committed, less hard-working, less capable and not those who volunteer to leave. When Cyprus Airways introduced a voluntary early retirement scheme, in the ‘90s it lost some of its ablest employees, while the unmotivated mediocrities stayed. And this is what would happen at the Bank of Cyprus if it agrees to the idea of ‘voluntary exits’.

Restructuring offers a big opportunity for the bank to get rid of its uncommitted and unproductive employees while keeping its best. In so doing it would also lay to rest the union nonsense about voluntary redundancies.



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