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Banks and employees creep closer to reconciliation
File - People walk in front of the Bank Association building in Beirut, Monday, June 27, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
File - People walk in front of the Bank Association building in Beirut, Monday, June 27, 2011. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)
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BEIRUT: Lebanese banks and their employees are inching closer to a deal over a long-disputed collective contract which has been suspended since it expired in 2009.

“A joint committee has made intensive efforts over the past days and made tangible progress toward overcoming the very few remaining obstacles,” Francois Bassil, the head of the Association of Banks in Lebanon, was quoted as saying by the NNA Friday.

“This would allow the two sides to sign the new version of the contract very soon,” Bassil said following a meeting with a visiting delegation from the Federation of Unions of Bank Employees.

George Hajj, head of the federation, told The Daily Star that the only point of difference that remained to be resolved related to a post-retirement health insurance system that had been a central demand by the union.

“The differences are in the details of how the system should be implemented and whether it would be done by private insurance companies or a pension fund,” he said.

Hajj said the two sides had reached a settlement over the percentage increase on health and education allowances, agreeing at the same time to abolish an article tying increases in those allowances to wage increases passed by the government.

Working hours, an administrative yearly wage hike and other issues were left unchanged.

Asked when the contract was expected to be signed, Hajj said the union would be liaising with its delegates and following official procedures. “We hope that the contract will be signed before the end of the month.”

The Central Bank and the Labor Ministry have been mediating new contract negotiations between FUBE and the ABL over benefits for an estimated 9,000 union members for the past three years.

But the negotiations stalled over the last two years, prompting the union to stage several protests months ago to demand the contract’s renewal.

The collective labor agreement, which governs the relationship between Lebanese banks and employees, was first adopted in 1972. It dictates that bank employees receive higher educational and health care allowances than those granted by the labor law and the National Social Security Fund.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on July 20, 2013, on page 4.
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