Cypriot bank workers go on strike over pension fears

Bank employees in Cyprus have taken part in a strike over fears that pensions are at risk under the country's crippling international bailout agreement, APA reports quoting Press TV.

Bank employees stopped work for two hours on Thursday and gathered outside the parliament building in the capital Nicosia over concerns that pension funds at the Laiki Bank and the Bank of Cyprus will not be protected under the bailout deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the European Commission and the European Central Bank (ECB), AFP reported.

The protesters carried banners reading, "Wake up Cyprus," "Hands off our jobs, hands off our provident funds" and "We are paying for mistakes of bankers," asking for protection against possible layoffs and benefit cuts in the face of looming austerity measures, demanded by the island country’s international creditors.

"We want written commitments for safeguarding of our provident funds and jobs," said one protester.

The brief strike came despite reassurances by President Nicos Anastasiades last week that every effort would be made to preserve pension funds at the two banks in the eye of the financial storm.

On Wednesday, the country’s new finance minister vowed to do "whatever it takes" to right the economy and warned of "difficult days ahead."

"We... shall do whatever it takes to fix our public finances and put our economy back on track for growth," said Haris Georgiades after being sworn into office.

"Even though today's circumstances might be bleak, the medium- and long-term prospects remain excellent. We have received a blow but I'm absolutely confident we shall overcome," Georgiades added.

On March 25, Nicosia inked a 10-billion-euro (13-billion-US dollar) bailout deal, which includes a tax of up to 40 percent on deposits of over 100,000 euros in Cyprus’ two biggest banks, with the IMF, the European Commission and ECB.