Wed, Nov 15, 2006 - Page 11 News List

Union warns of industrial action

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The labor union for the Bank of Overseas Chinese (華僑銀行) yesterday threatened to call a strike if the lender failed to ink an agreement to protect workers' jobs by the end of this month, when it is scheduled to conclude merger talks with Citibank.

"No group agreement, no merger deal," union acting chairman Chen Huei-chih (陳惠治) said in a telephone interview yesterday.

"If the bank refuses to sign the agreement by Nov. 30, we will call a strike on Dec. 29," Chen said.

The union made the decision in a meeting on Saturday. Chen said some 60 percent of the union's 1,450 members agreed with the signing of the job protection pact and supported the strike plan.

The union will hold a press conference today and contact the Financial Supervisory Commission tomorrow. It plans to hold a protest outside the bank's headquarters in Taipei next Wednesday.

Bank of Overseas Chinese president Shih Chiao-hsin (施教興) said the bank would continue negotiations with employees.

The planned strike could be the second in the nation's financial sector after strikes by workers at Taiwan Business Bank's (台灣中小企銀) last year, which drove prices down in the state-controlled bank's share auction by scaring interested investors away.

The financial regulator said it would demand that the Bank of Overseas Chinese comply with labor regulations.

"We will try our best to coordinate the talks between the two camps before the authority governing labor rights issues steps in," commission spokesperson Susan Chang (張秀蓮) said.

Rumors have filled the market for months that the Bank of Overseas Chinese was in investment or buyout talks with Citibank.

The local lender admitted it was talking to a foreign investor but did not offer further details.

As a result of the extensive coverage of the rumored deal, the commission will keep a close eye on any possible share price manipulation that would violate the Securities and Exchange Law (證券交易法), Chang said.

If the merger occurred, the commission would attempt to trace abnormal trading records and hand over illegal trading cases to prosecutors for further investigation, she said.

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