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Cyprus bank staff protest over threat to jobs, pensions

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

At least 1,000 Cyprus bank staff marched on parliament on Saturday to protest what they see as a hit on their jobs and pensions being imposed in an effort to rescue an EU bailout for the island.

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 and then on to parliament.

Outside parliament, ETYK leader Loizos Hadjicostis threatened strike action when banks are due to reopen after a more than week-long closure if there is no rethink on bills approved by MPs on Friday to nationalise many pension funds and restructure the whole banking sector.

"If you don't secure our pension fund, we will go on strike from Tuesday," the union chief told the crowd to chants of "We will go on strike."

"We will again protest tomorrow (Sunday) outside parliament and this time not just bank employees, but all Cypriots," Hadjicostis added.

Were a strike call widely respected, it would be a major blow to the Cyprus economy which is reeling under an extended bank closure that has seen many businesses start refusing all but cash transactions.

The bank workers marched peacefully, but anger was also evident with the troika of the EU, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund that is making Cyprus come up with 5.8 billion euros ($7.5 billion) in return for 10 billion euros ($13 billion) in emergency loans.

"What the troika is doing is horrible," said a protester who gave his name only as Andreas.

"It is a conspiracy. Not only it is taking our money, but also our jobs. We are against this bank restructuring plan."

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.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130323/cyprus-bank-staff-protest-over-threat-jobs-pensions