THERE is nothing more infuriating than seeing the threats and blackmail employed by the bank employees’ union ETYK yielding the desired results. Yesterday, the union called off the two-hour strike at all banks it had announced for today, after the Bank of Cyprus gave in to its demand for the extension of the deadline for the submission of early retirement applications.
It also managed to squeeze another two months’ salaries as compensation for those who decided to take early retirement, taking the total to seven, in addition to the one month’s salary for every two years’ of service they would receive. Twenty years’ of service would give an employee 17 months’ salary – admittedly it is pretty low compared to the 41 months’ salaries the co-ops have proposed to pay their workers as compensation for early retirement – and another victory to the bullies of ETYK.
There is little doubt that the union out-manoeuvred the BoC board by urging employees not to apply for early retirement. The applications received ahead of today’s deadline were nowhere near the target of one thousand set by the bank which allowed ETYK not only to secure an extension for the submission of applications but also to up the compensation on offer. The union failed to persuade the bank to base the compensation on the old salaries – before they were cut – and to offer medical cover for an extra two years, until the end of 2016, but it claims to have ensured its members would be paid their provident fund entitlement almost in full.
Only in Cyprus, during a deep depression, could a union representing employees of a near-bankrupt company secure such retirement packages. And the Central Bank, its appointees on the BoC board and the government are all responsible for allowing the blackmailers of ETYK to call the shots. Is this how they will build confidence in the banking sector? By squandering the money of the depositors to keep the union bullies happy? Then again what could we expect from a Central Bank and government that decided to transfer all the employees of a bankrupt bank to a bank struggling to avoid bankruptcy and lumbering it with additional crippling costs.
Why are we surprised by ETYK’s behaviour? Anyone faced by a bunch of weak politicians and spineless bankers would behave in exactly the same way. The BoC board could have called ETYK’s bluff and given redundancy notices to one thousand workers on Monday if applications for voluntary retirement were inadequate. The union may have called a strike, but after a few days employees would have returned to work, and ETYK would never have caused problems to the banks again.
A resolute stance would have shown that the Central Bank, the board and the government were determined to save the BoC. Instead they have shown that survival of the bank is not as important as keeping ETYK’s selfish bullies happy.