Thu, Nov 23, 2006 - Page 12 News List

Bank union prepares for strike action

BANK OF OVERSEAS CHINESE The institution on Monday claimed that more than 90 percent of its employees supported the bank's decision last year to merge with Polaris

By Jackie Lin  /  STAFF REPORTER

Following several rounds of unsatisfactory negotiations with the management, the labor union of the Bank of Overseas Chinese (華僑銀行) yesterday announced it was making preparations for a strike scheduled for late next month.

The union has garnered the support of 828 employees -- or 97 percent of those who attended the vote in May -- to stage a strike at an opportune time. The vote was initiated as the union claimed that employee working conditions had worsened since Polaris Group (寶來集團) took over the lender in March last year.

With the rumor that the Bank of Overseas Chinese has engaged in investment or buyout talks with Citibank buzzing for months, the union has pressured the bank to guarantee employee working rights and to provide better redundancy compensation.

"If the company still fails to demonstrate its sincerity, the union will not hesitate to launch a strike in exchange for all the employees' jobs," said Chen Huei-chih (陳惠治), acting chairman of the Bank of Overseas Chinese Industrial Union, yesterday.

Chen said the union would start raising funds and holding seminars at the bank's branches nationwide to raise awareness in preparation for the strike, which is scheduled for Dec. 29.

Mega International Commercial Bank's (兆豐國際商銀) union has also decided to join the strike if the management does not act on its wages claim by the end of this month, union chairman Tsai Chiu-far (蔡秋發) said.

Tsai said the claim for a 4 percent pay rise is fair, considering that the banking unit accounts for 80 percent of parent Mega Financial Holding Co's (兆豐金控) annual earnings and that there has not been a salary increase since 2002.

Chang Hwa Commercial Bank's (彰化銀行) union could also join its peers if the share swap talks now under way favored Taishin Financial Holding Co (台新金控), union president Tsao Ping-kun (曹炳坤) said.

The Bank of Overseas Chinese union yesterday also took legal action to protest against alleged strongarm activities. The union claimed the bank compelled employees to make "politically correct" statements about its plans.

The bank on Monday claimed that more than 90 percent of the employees supported the bank's decision to introduce foreign capital as well as the pension plan proposed by the management, and had agreed not to participate in strikes.

Chen said that the bank violated Article 304 of the Criminal Code (刑法) by forcing employees to agree to its terms.

"We've issued a lawyer's letter to the bank, with copies sent to the Department of Labor and the Financial Supervisory Commission ... What the management has done is very controversial," Chen said.

The union called the bank's credibility into question as the latter has refused to promise that there will not be any layoffs and has not made public the content of the pension program.

"The union has repeatedly expressed its willingness to negotiate with the management, but the bank has over and over again wasted social resources and engendered conflicts which have been damaging to the bank's corporate image," read the union's statement issued yesterday.

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