As next Tuesday’s (12 June) deadline for an amicable agreement between employers and staff at Nordea Bank approaches rapidly, there seems to remain one main sticking point in deciding the terms of the social plan that will see 155 staff lose their jobs in the sale of the Luxembourg subsidiary to Swiss bank UBS.
The three unions, ALEBA, OGB-L and LCGB have united to argue that any negotiated agreement should apply equally to all affected staff, whereas the management negotiating team have proposed to cap the amount of the payout to some of the higher earning employees. According to Lone Borchardt, ALEBA union negotiating delegate and member of the bank’s comité mixte, the total overall difference to the social plan of removing the cap amounts to less than two million euro, and impacts 48 employees, or nearly one third of the affected staff. They further argue that this one-off amount is roughly equivalent to the amount that the bank is currently paying to its 140 external consultants every month.
In order to show solidarity with their colleagues affected by the cap, over 100 employees and union members took part in a peaceful protest outside the company office in Neudorf. Following addresses from representatives of the ALEBA and OGB-L unions, the staff symbolically threw union caps in the air before returning to their work.
Ms Borchardt went on to tell Chronicle.lu that although there is no meeting planned before the deadline day meeting next Tuesday, the unions, who she says have “become like a family” in pursuing their united cause, are willing to meet the management delegation at any time in the interim. She went on to say how satisfied she was by the turnout and wished to thank all of the staff who came out in support of their colleagues and the unions’ stance. She could not rule out strike action in the event that Tuesday passes without an agreement being reached, but very much believed that there was still time for this to be avoided.
Chronicle.lu also took the opportunity of speaking with bank Senior Communication Partner Judith Gledhill, who confirmed that following two weeks of negotiations in May, a further two weeks of mediation are taking place. The mediation period finishes next Tuesday. During this negotiation and mediation process there are a number of things that should remain confidential, and Ms. Gledhill declared herself surprised that the unions were quoting figures that in some cases, she felt, had been “pulled out of a hat”. She claims that the capping of senior employees’ compensation in such cases is very normal in Luxembourg and she went on to say that the bank remains open and available to meet in good faith with the union delegation at any time before next Tuesday’s deadline. She also underlined that, despite some newspaper reports to the contrary, no staff have yet been dismissed, it is certainly not the bank’s desire to treat their staff badly, and she is also hopeful that an agreement can be reached.
From a Chronicle.lu perspective, given that both sides have declared themselves willing to return to the negotiating table, and have expressed an optimism that an agreement can be reached, it must surely be in all parties’ interests for them to make that happen, and reach a satisfactory conclusion to the benefit of all.