Cyprus Mail
Our View

Our View: Co-op wage hikes are a provocation and not financially justified

EMPLOYEES of the Co-op Central Bank have a nerve to demand pay rises and to threaten dynamic measures if they are not satisfied. These people are in jobs because of the €1.7 billion the state borrowed from international lenders in order to save the co-ops from bankruptcy. The Cypriot taxpayer will have to repay this loan, not the co-op’s workers that also had a share of the responsibility for the chaotic financial mess the co-ops were in at the end of 2012.

The Co-op Central Bank currently has the biggest percentage of NPLs and the lowest rate of restructuring bad loans. Financially, it is still in a precarious position even though the government hopes to have it listed on the Cyprus Stock Exchange in September and has decided, for this reason, to donate 25 per cent of its shares to the co-op customers; if the government had tried to sell them, it might not have found buyers. This decision has now been questioned by the auditor-general and could still be stopped, in which case the listing might be delayed.

The unions’ main demand is for uniform pay rates for all the co-op employees. At present, employees doing the same job are paid different wages, because they had stayed on the pay they were receiving at co-op they were working for before the merger of 2013. Most co-ops were brought under the Co-op Central Bank during the bailout, but their employees remained on the pre-merger wages which were different.

It is not unreasonable to seek to make them uniform, but the unions are demanding that all pay was brought in line with the highest wages. Management could argue that all wages should be brought in line with the lowest rather than the highest, a position certain to spark a co-op workers’ revolution. Management have told the unions the issue of wages could be settled after the CSE listing in September which would also involve the legal merger of all the co-ops into a single entity.

A Co-op Central Bank executive said that the organisation was not ready to discuss pay rises, but used the CSE listing and merger as the excuse. Surely he should have reminded the unions, which are expected to decide to take industrial action next week, that the Co-op Central Bank remained on a stabilisation path and was not out of the woods yet. Pay rises were out of the question. Apart from not being justified financially, they would be a provocation to the taxpayer that saved the co-ops and will be repaying the bailout money for many years to come. There is a moral issue here that nobody dares mention.

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