FBME Staff in Cyprus Strike Until Further Notice

12 April 2016

The employees of FBME Bank in Cyprus have gone on strike until further notice. They have walked out because of the unreasonable actions of the Special Administrator of the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC), plus the overall behaviour and actions of the CBC and the Cyprus authorities. A statement has been issued by the employees which reads as follows:

“We, the employees of FBME Bank Ltd, will as of today 11 April 2016 go on strike/protest because of breach of our employee rights. After almost two years of being under the administration of the Central Bank of Cyprus we have become tired at the unreasonable and degrading behaviour towards the employees.

At the peak of this behaviour a few days ago two of our colleagues were terminated illegally and spitefully in a bullying attempt, because they dared express their concerns and indicated the mistakes carried out by the Special Administrator of the Cyprus Branch of FBME Bank Ltd, Mr Chris Iacovides, and the Central Bank when they had asked us, the staff, to submit to the depositors of FBME Bank Ltd false data in connection with their balances.

Two days later, and while we the staff were preparing to take measures against the illegal dismissals of these two colleagues, 136 out of the total of 165 of us received letters of termination, including 8 pregnant women and mothers on maternity leave! Up until today the terminated staff have not received the statutory notice for termination of employment as provided in the law, the proportion of their annual leave and their remaining overdue staff benefits which they had worked for. These are benefits protected by the law, which have been earned following years of efforts and whose non-payment constitutes breach of the most basic employment rights.

Dr. Pavlos Kourtellos, the legal counsel for the Special Administrator, holds the position that the letters handed over to the dismissed staff by the Special Administrator do not constitute termination, neither redundancy, but frustration of contract and argues that we because of this “frustration” we are not entitled for payment of our notice period, our unused annual leave, the proportion of our 13th salary and our remaining benefits. This inspirational legal alchemy is not acceptable by any other member of the legal community, as it is not provided for by the labour law. The only person who seems to accept it is Mr Iacovides, as it serves his agenda, which is to reduce the costs of the Bank by not paying the employees, so as to have more money in the disposal of the Central Bank to pay for the Bank’s other creditors. However, each and every time they talk about the terminations they refer to redundancies. Interesting contradiction …

What Dr Kourtellos has not explained to Mr Iacovides, though, is that by following this line the employee terminations are becoming absolutely legally baseless, which could lead the employees to be entitled to monetary damages worth millions of euros, which in case the Bank is liquidated would have to be paid for by the Redundancy Fund, in other words the State!

It is to be noted that the remaining staff are facing serious practical difficulties in carrying out our duties in a correct manner. This is due on the one hand to the dismissal of our 136 colleagues, which has left key position unmanned; and on the other hand to the uncertainty as to our overdue benefits, which had already been recognised as payable by our employer, i.e. the Bank, as well as the previous two Special Administrators.

The majority of the employees used to receive an average salary. People with families, who in many cases are the sole bread winners in their families. The need for a salary is exploited as a tool for bargaining by the Central Bank and the Special Administrator in the most cynical and degrading way. They have approached dismissed colleagues of ours offering them rehiring for the same monthly salary as before, minus the week they had been terminated! Moreover, the Special Administrator has stated that he is withholding the payment of the notice period until he sees the behaviour and the level of cooperation by the remaining staff.

The Central Bank is refusing to assume responsibility for the destructive breaking of the law by the Special Administrator appointed by them, even though he is withholding the money that could be used to pay the overdue staff benefits and chooses in this way to pass the responsibility on to Mr Iacovides. The law of employment has been totally breached against all employees.

We the employees hold both of them equally accountable.

What we are asking for is basic and overdue.

We ask for:

  1. The immediate withdrawal of the illegal dismissals
  2. The immediate payment of our rights in full
  3. A fairer treatment
  4. The respect of the law for the protection of motherhood and responsibility towards mothers

All our demands constitute our basic legal rights and we will continue to be on strike until these are satisfied.”