Hellenic Bank backs down on redundancies, crisis averted

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A labour crisis in the banking sector seems to be averted as Hellenic Bank has taken a step back from its plans to reduce staff with redundancies without compensations.

Hellenic CEO Oliver Gatzke told staff the bank’s administration would be entering negotiations with union ETYK over the renewal of a collective agreement and preparing a voluntary exit scheme.

Gatzke stressed the management’s decision to proceed with an exit plan to reduce staff numbers, as provided in the bank’s business and transformation plans.

“The purpose of the dialogue with the labour side, which is being conducted under the mediation of the Labour Ministry, is to formulate an exit plan in a narrow time frame”.

This means that if there is an overall agreement with the union on the entire package of the collective agreement, the bank will present an exit plan to the staff.

It is noted that Gatzke did not refer to redundancies, simply stating an exit plan will be formed.

He called it a positive development, putting the bank on track to reach its goal of building a healthy and competitive organisation for the future.

“I am confident that we will work together for the benefit of the bank, the workers and all stakeholders”.

Cyprus’ banking system had been facing disruption after Hellenic staff announced they would strike over HB’s intention to go ahead with redundancies.

Cyprus’ second-largest commercial bank had officially informed unions of its intention to reduce staff by 300-350 to slash operating costs.

The bank appeared determined to go ahead with its new business plan, letting staff go without compensation, unlike previous voluntary exit schemes rolled out by Hellenic and its main rival Bank of Cyprus.

In response, bank employees union ETYK resorted to industrial action with Hellenic staff backing their union’s call for a strike delivering a 99.5% approval.

Following the strike threat, Hellenic Bank appeared less adamant about their redundancy plans, noting they were ready to find a “holistic solution to all pending matters”.

It is now looking to settle the matter of layoffs with a comprehensive deal, including issues such as renewal of a collective agreement, promotion and compensation schemes, and contributions to the various cohesion funds.

And the harmonisation of salary scales between employees joining Hellenic after the Cooperative Bank takeover remains lower than those of their colleagues.

A current exit plan of the Bank of Cyprus to lay off 550 staff members through a voluntary exit scheme was successful.

Employees choosing to press the exit button departed with maximum compensations of €200,000.