Cyprus Editorial: At this rate, the Co-op will never come out of the Dark Ages

12 July, 2017 | Posted By: Financial Mirror

It was strike time again this week, with about two thirds of the staff at the Co-operative Central Bank not showing up for work, seeking pay rises where their employer has nothing to offer, and ignoring proposals that these matters be part of a general package when 25% of the shares in the Co-op are placed on the stock exchange towards the end of the year.

The reason for the listing is for the state, that bailed out the co-op credit societies (SPE) with a whopping 1.5 bln euros and merged them all into one entity, with 18 regional divisions and about 250 branches, to recoup its investment and let the bank recover.
At the same time, there has been inequality in pay, with staff at leading branches in major towns received far higher wages than those doing the same work in the rural Co-ops, resulting in the bank’s management slashing the payroll by 16%, saying it will save about 100 mln euros over the years.
However, as expected, bank union bosses have not, or do not wish to understand, the reason behind the whole restructuring exercise, which has been none other than to rid the Co-op of its old image and transform into a profitable bank, for the benefit of its customers and eventual shareholders.
Instead, staff are adamant that they should be given assurances of pay rises ahead of any bourse listing and until then, their salaries should immediately be reinstated by 5%, as if they deserve it – with a 3% rise on wages and 2% on their provident fund contributions.
Once again, the older staff and union bosses are only looking out for themselves, and have no consideration whatsoever for younger employees, making the Co-op (as well as other banks) unattractive to college leavers, adding to the myth concocted by the government that it wants to help young graduates.
Strangely enough, the strike this time round was not directed by the militant bank employees’ union, ETYK, but by the “traditional” labour groups of SEK and PEO, as well as the civil servants’ PASYDY.
Meanwhile, in an effort to streamline costs and cut back on overheads, the Co-op Central Bank said it plans to shut down a further 90 isolated branches, often employing just one person, and transfer those staff to nearby larger branches. Perhaps, along the way, it can also accidentally lose a couple of hundred staff. Only then will costs really come down and make it attractive to potential investors, retail and institutional.