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Our View: Etyk pension fund demand is an outrage

Defunct Laiki bank

BANK EMPLOYEES union Etyk announced yesterday that it was given “full support” on the issue of the bailed in pension funds by Diko, Akel and the Solidarity Movement. In response to the “unacceptable decision of the Council of Ministers on the pension funds”, the union yesterday had meetings with the leaders of the three parties to convey its members’ frustration.

In an announcement issued after the meeting, the union said the decision, “apart from constituting a provocative failure by the government to honour its commitments, it mainly victimises a large number of our members.” It added that “misleading and unacceptable statements which saw the light of publicity were aimed at creating the wrong impression to public opinion and justifying the inconsistency of this government.”

Nowhere in the union’s statement does it explain why the government’s decision, rationally explained several weeks ago by the finance minister, was unacceptable because the union has decided to resort to political pressure and intimidation. There will be presidential elections in six months and Etyk knows all candidates and their backers would “express clear support for its positions”. In fact it would be no surprise if President Anastasiades, who will certainly be seeking a second term, does not change the government’s decision.

We doubt any of our politicians would dare mention that if there was anyone who was being provocative and making unacceptable demands it was Etyk, which seemed to believe that its members should be untouched by the banking crisis.

Shareholders of the banks saw their shares wiped out, Laiki customers lost all their uninsured deposits, customers of the Bank of Cyprus lost close to half their deposits while bondholders saw their investments vanish as a result of the banking collapse. The collapse led the country to the worst recession in its history, causing unprecedented unemployment and big pay cuts in the private sector.

Bank employees, however, were almost unscathed by the collapse. None of them lost their jobs (all Laiki workers were transferred to the Bank of Cyprus) and they suffered the smallest pay-cuts in the economy despite being the highest-paid workers. While private sector workers saw their standards of living plummet, the employees of the banks, which caused the economic meltdown, carried on collecting their fat pay-cheques every month.

And now, their union is demanding that the taxpayer compensates them for the losses suffered by their pension funds. Is there not a single politician who has the guts to tell Etyk’s arrogant leadership that its demand is not just unacceptable, but a provocation to a society still reeling from the effects of the banking crisis? Is it too daring to point out to Etyk that bank employees’ pension fund losses were their contribution to saving the banking system that continues to provide them an enviable standard of living?


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