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Hajj defends bank staff’s rights if axed

  • The Standard Chartered Bank headquarters in Dbayeh. (The Daily Star/Mahmoud Kheir)

BEIRUT: The head of the Association of Bank Employees Monday warned against laying off any staff from newly acquired banks without providing them with adequate compensation.

“We will not remain idle if some bank staff are laid off under the pretext of restructuring,” George Hajj told The Daily Star.

Hajj was reacting to reports that the fates of hundreds of employees at two foreign-owned lenders may be at risk if these banks sell their retail businesses to their Lebanese counterparts.

Standard Chartered and Ahli International Bank have been negotiating with some Lebanese lenders to sell their retail businesses in Lebanon.

But the talks have not yet led to any clear results as news circulates that the banks are seeking better offers as well as guarantees that their staffs will either stay on or receive handsome compensation from the new buyers.

Hajj insisted that the interests and job continuity of the bank employees will not be compromised or subject to negotiations.

“Of course we can’t prevent any bank from terminating the services of the staff, but on condition that the [employees] receive their full benefits,” he argued.

Hajj refused to treat any terminated bank staff in accordance with article 50 of the Labor Law, adding that the law was unfair and archaic.

“This law dates back to 1975 and for this reason the banks cannot pay meager compensation for these employees,” he said.

But Hajj admitted that most other banks that had sold their assets to Lebanese banks had received substantial compensation.

He emphasized that laid-off staff should receive compensation equal to 30-40 months of salaries, depending on their years of service.

Sources told The Daily Star that bank staff receive better compensation packages than employees of other private firms. “Banks in Lebanon are more liquid and therefore can afford to pay handsome compensation to staff that are laid off. But this is not applied to other firms in the country,” one source explained.

He said the number of staff working with Standard Chartered and Ahli range between 250 and 350.

Lebanese banks employ more than 22,000 workers, most of whom are members of the Association of Bank Employees.

“If the employees do not receive a fair deal then their colleagues in the same banks will go on strike. But it is too early to talk about such scenarios until we find out what the fate of the redundant staff will be,” Hajj said.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on February 04, 2014, on page 5.
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Summary

The head of the Association of Bank Employees Monday warned against laying off any staff from newly acquired banks without providing them with adequate compensation.

Hajj was reacting to reports that the fates of hundreds of employees at two foreign-owned lenders may be at risk if these banks sell their retail businesses to their Lebanese counterparts.

Hajj insisted that the interests and job continuity of the bank employees will not be compromised or subject to negotiations.

Hajj refused to treat any terminated bank staff in accordance with article 50 of the Labor Law, adding that the law was unfair and archaic.

Hajj admitted that most other banks that had sold their assets to Lebanese banks had received substantial compensation.


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