Mar 20 2012
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First round of bank labor contract talks ‘positive’
20 March 2012
BEIRUT: Negotiations over renewing the collective contract between employees associations and banks were postponed until next week after a first round of “positive” talks in which both sides strived to reach middle ground.
“The talks were generally positive and no one seems to be hindering a potential solution,” Assad Khoury, head of the Association of Bank Employees, told The Daily Star, adding that a second session would be scheduled next week to discuss amendments to the contract in more detail.
Khoury said the meeting, which concluded Monday evening, focused on general terms of the contract and did not discuss figures.
During the meeting, the banks also put forward a suggestion to phase out an article which entitles bank employees to 16 monthly salaries.
He reiterated that his association had a positive attitude but would not accept any compromises on the legal rights of employees.
Head of the Banks Association Makram Sader, whose organization is negotiating on behalf of banks, was unavailable for comment.
Meanwhile, the General Labor Confederation said it backed up the demands of bank employees.
“The demands of bank employees are legitimate. The collective contract is a result of unionist effort,” Hasan Fakih, vice president of the GLC, said in a statement Monday.
The Labor Ministry had managed to bring the two sides back into direct negotiations after it was asked to mediate a settlement. The ministry has assigned a three-month deadline for the conclusion of the talks.
The Association of Bank Employees vowed Sunday to stand firm against any attempts to tamper with the collective labor contract which has governed bank-employee relations since 1972.
Khoury warned Sunday that failure to reach a deal could prompt the association to launch a crippling strike.
Negotiations over the renewal of the collective contract, which expired at the end of 2009, have been complicated by the recent wage increase decision taken by the Cabinet.
The Cabinet’s decision caps wage increases for higher salary brackets at LL300,000. But according to the expired labor contract, bank employees are entitled to wage increases of up to 25 percent.
Banks have refused to grant such a hefty raise, saying it would cut deep into their profits.
Bank workers have shown willingness to accept less than a 25 percent wage hike and have called for an increase of 7 percent.
However, they have also called for boosting education allowances, health care coverage and end of service benefits.© Copyright The Daily Star 2012.
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