1,000 bank workers march on Cyprus’ presidential palace to protest bank restructuring
At least 1,000 bank workers fearing for their jobs staged a march on the Cyprus presidency on Saturday ahead of a planned protest outside parliament which is to debate a bailout to save the island from bankruptcy.
An AFP journalist said the workers marched from the headquarters of the Cyprus Union of Bank Employees (ETYK) towards the presidential compound where they held a brief rally at the gates before heading towards the finance ministry.
The marchers held placards that read: “Hands off provident funds” and “No to the bankruptcy of Cyprus” as well as “Let us dream.”
Police initially blocked the protesters from nearing the presidential palace before then letting them through.
The Cypriot authorities are scrambling to raise 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) before a Monday deadline set by the European Central Bank or it will cut off emergency financial aid to the island.
Finance Minister Michalis Sarris said “significant progress” has been made in talks with the EU, ECB and IMF aimed at clinching a 10 billion-euro ($13 billion) bailout to save the eurozone member from looming bankruptcy.
Sarris estimated the legislation would be tabled in parliament later on Saturday, but an official cited by CNA state news agency played down the likelihood of that happening.
The bank workers marched peacefully, but anger was also evident.
“We are protesting to save our jobs and our provident funds. We are put in this situation by our European friends,” one bank employee identifying himself only as Petros told AFP.
Saturday’s talks came after parliament passed a raft of bills late on Friday including to create a solidarity fund, impose capital controls and restructure an outsized banking sector.
Nicosia is considering imposing a tax of around 25 percent on deposits of more than 100,000 euros held at the Bank of Cyprus, the island’s largest lender, as well as restructuring Laiki Bank (or Popular Bank) into a “good” and “bad” bank.
Laiki’s workforce — amounting to about one percent of Cyprus’ 840,000 population — reflects the bloated size of the banking sector blamed by the EU for being behind the crisis.