Thu, Nov 16, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Bank unions threaten strike

JOB SECURITY Union leaders at three banks said they have given their managements until the end of the month to meet workers' demands

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The financial sector may see its first joint strike next month, as several bank labor unions are threatening to take job action if management does not act on their appeals by the end of this month.

The unions of the Bank of Overseas Chinese (華僑銀行) and Mega International Commercial Bank (兆豐國際商銀) have decided to stage a strike on Dec. 29 if their managers do not agree to sign an agreement on job protection pay raises by Nov. 30.

"We are not asking for much, just a guarantee of the same employment conditions and better redundancy compensation if there were layoffs or if the bank was taken over by a foreign buyer," Chen Huei-chih (陳惠治), acting chairman of Bank of Overseas Chinese Industrial Union, said yesterday.

The market has been awash for months with rumors that the Bank of Overseas Chinese is in investment or buyout talks with Citibank. Neither company has commented on the rumors.

The government used to boast that Polaris Group's (寶來集團) takeover of the Bank of Overseas Chinese was the main achievement of its second-stage financial reform effort, Chen said.

"But the flip-flop stance and the planned disposal of the bank one year after the takeover proves that Polaris was not sincere about running the bank and plans to sell the employees like a product," he said.

The Bank of Overseas Chinese said in a statement yesterday that it could not accept some of the conditions raised by a few union members, such as unlimited compensation and preferential severance pay for employees who resign voluntarily.

Mega International's union has also decided to go on strike if the bank does not act on its wage claim by the end of this month, union chairman Tsai Chiu-far (蔡秋發) said.

The claim for a 4 percent pay raise is fair, considering the banking unit accounts for 80 percent of parent Mega Financial Holding Co's (兆豐金控) annual earnings and there have been no salary increases since 2002, Tsai said.

Chang Hwa Bank's (彰化銀行) union may join its peers if share swap talks now underway are conducted in favor of Taishin Financial Holding Co (台新金控), union president Tsao Ping-kun (曹炳坤) said.

Tsao urged Taishin Financial-appointed board members to avoid a conflict of interest by not voting for any share-swap issues and for government-appointed directors to defend the interests of all shareholders and employees.

Deputy Minister of Finance Liu Teng-cheng (劉燈城) said the government respects unions' right to strike as long as the law is obeyed.

In other news, Chang Hwa's acting spokesman William Lin (林維樑) said the hiring of financial advisers would not be discussed at the lender's next board meeting, scheduled for Nov. 22.

"We will not discuss the issue until after the Financial Supervisory Commission rules whether Taishin Financial could vote on the matter," Lin said.

Additional reporting by Jackie Lin

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