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Karousos cancels meeting with bank workers union (Updated)

Karousos
Acting Labour Minister Yiannis Karousos

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos, who is currently acting as interim Labour Minister while Zeta Emilianidou remains hospitalised in Athens with a brain aneurism, has cancelled a meeting with bank employees union Etyk after staff at Hellenic Bank announced they will go on a 24-hour warning strike on May 31.

The strike was decided during a board meeting of Etyk at which 99.5 per cent, or 5,714 members of all banks, voted in favour of the work stoppage.

In a written statement, the union said the reasons behind the measure were “violations of the agreements and laws by the Hellenic Bank management”.

Hellenic – the island’s second-largest commercial lender – under CEO Oliver Gatzke is hoping to slash costs amid branch closures and increasing digitalisation which has reduced demand for much of its staff, which it plans to decrease in number.

The union counters that the bank should offer a voluntary retirement plan, a move which is viewed as costly and unlikely to reduce staff by the necessary amount.

The strike will act as a warning, the union added, while in case the Hellenic Bank management does not comply and abide by the agreements and the law, such as the decisions of the labour minister, then the measures will be intensified and extended.

Speaking to the Cyprus News Agency on Wednesday, Karousos said that calling a strike at this moment “shows no respect for Emilianidou’s condition.”

He was due to meet the union’s representatives and the bank’s management to mediate an agreement between the two sides.

“However, Etyk’s decision to call a strike comes at the worst possible time, when the labour minister is fighting for her life,” Karousos said.

“I was assured that the meeting would go ahead when suddenly I was informed about the union’s decision to strike. Therefore, meeting would make no sense at this moment.”

The transport minister added, however, that he will still meet with the Hellenic Bank’s management soon.

Later on Thursday, Hellenic Bank also slammed Etyk for the decision to call a strike.

A statement released by the Bank’s management called the reasons behind the action “regrettable and disappointing.”

“The strike is detrimental to all parties involved and will cause further disruption to our banking system and the country’s economy, which is already facing extraordinary challenges due to the global economic instability.

“Problems are resolved through constructive dialogue and not through unilateral and provocative measures,” the statement said, while calling on Etyk to reconsider its decision and rejoin the discussions.

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