CYPRUS: Hellenic Bank paralysed by strike in pay dispute

3 mins read

Cyprus’ banking system is in for a rough ride as staff at Hellenic went on strike Friday over a pay dispute with management.

ETYK bank employees’ union called the a 24-hour strike at Hellenic Bank, demanding that employers conform to obligations deriving from renewing the collective agreement.

It is calling on banks to pay out annual pay rises and the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA) with the employers adamant on changing the way staff are rewarded.

Following Friday’s strike, the crisis at Hellenic Bank may drive labour relations in Cyprus banking into uncharted waters, making it difficult to manage such disputes in the future.

The situation at Hellenic may ignite disputes in other banks as the trade union is intent on escalating industrial action if management does not grant the staff pay rises and the Cost of Living Allowance (COLA).

In the meantime, Hellenic appears adamant in granting its staff a 2% horizontal salary increase and an additional increase to those who, according to management, have high productivity and performance, thus changing the annual compensation and promotion system.

ETYK has cited the intervention of Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou, who, according to the union, "has clearly stated that management is obligated to grant the annual compensations and COLA under existing agreements".

There are also fears Hellenic is at the forefront of abolishing several employee benefits linked to automatic pay rises, pay grades, annual compensation and the existing promotion system.

Hellenic Bank argues there is a need to change the outdated system of automatic increases which fails to reward capable and productive staff.

Hellenic’s CEO Ioannis Matsis has expressed the view that the system of “automatic increase” not in tune with the times.

"You have to reward performance rather than blindly increasing everyone’s salary, without taking into account productivity."

On Friday, Hellenic stated: “ETYK’s 24-hour strike was unnecessary and has brought about damage to the staff. The Bank's Management has granted increases to its staff, far greater than those demanded by ETYK, in a more equitable and fair manner. It has also introduced a minimum wage of €1300”.

Hellenic said that despite ETYK's strike, about 600 employees had gone in to work as usual. As the bank stated only their branch network was affected, with the rest of its departments operating normally.

Michalis Antoniou, director-general Cyprus Federation of Employers and Industrialists, prior to the strike had called for sober and calm reactions as the banking sector cannot afford being hit by prolonged industrial action.

The Labour Minister is expected to mediate to avoid further strike action.

Emilianidou is in consultation with senior bank executives and ETYK, conducting an informal dialogue to find common ground on controversial issues such as pay, pension contributions, travel expenses and promotions.