Union of Bank Employees to Strike over Contract Disagreements

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The Union of Bank Employees threatened Friday to take escalatory measures starting next week if the Association of Banks in Lebanon failed to produce any result over the controversial collective contracts, the al-Mustaqbal daily said Saturday.

Head of the Union, Georges Hajj called, in a press conference on Friday, on affiliated trade unions to hold general strikes beginning next week and to participate in all the moves planned by the union.

“Dialogue has long ended and the hour of confrontation is here. The union calls for the participation of all affiliated unions in the sit-in that will be held in the northern city of Tripoli next week and the one that will be held before the Association of Banks in Lebanon in the first week of April,” said Hajj.

“We will close the doors of any banking institution that tries to expel staff during the strike,” said Hajj.

“We are the largest militia in wartime and the largest union in peacetime,” he concluded.

Almost three years of negotiations on the collective labor agreement between the union of bank employees and the Association of Banks in Lebanon, failed to reach an suitable agreement.

Hajj said that over three years of dialogue, dozens of meetings were held but reached a dead end, and dialogue has consequently come to halt.

“The reasons prompted by banks to reject the terms of the contract are illogical. Productivity in the banking sector is high ... It is not true that the capital is one of the factors that uplifted the banking sector. It is the sector employees who represent human capital and they are essential partners in it,” said Hajj.

The long-standing differences have stalled an agreement over the collective contract. While banks demand employees to increase working hours without offering a pay hike, the union utterly rejects any increase in working hours without being offered an equivalent salary increase.

Banks were also demanding that the number of monthly salaries per year be consolidated into 12 months instead of 16, a measure which could cut the value of future wage increases by leaving the overall value of salaries the same.

The collective labor agreement governs the relationship between Lebanese banks and employees. The first version was adopted back in 1972.

Bank employees receive, in accordance with the collective contract, higher allowances than those granted in the labor law and by the National Social Security Fund.

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