More than 5,000 bank workers in southern Cyprus were set to strike on Thursday of this week, and lead a mass protest outside parliament while it decides the future of their pensions.
Cyprus’ two biggest banks are being restructured into one as part of a eurozone bailout deal.
Large deposits—including workers’ pension funds—will be subjected to a “haircut” of between 37.5 percent and 60 percent.
“No-one knows what’s going to happen to them,” Dinos Frangoudis, a worker at the Bank of Cyprus, told Socialist Worker.
“They want to downsize the bank substantially, so we’ll be facing layoffs and wage cuts. And pensions are a huge concern, we could end up retiring with less than half of what we paid in.
“These are the ordinary bank workers who are going to suffer.”
The bailout deal also calls for major privatisations. And the bank restructuring is taking its toll across Southern Cyprus.
“Bankruptcies have already started as finance goes out of the market,” said Dinos. “We expect to see the unemployment rate at least double before the end of the year, and many of us fear it could be much worse.”
Southern Cyprus is the fifth eurozone country to get a bailout after Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Spain—and many analysts think Slovenia could soon be the sixth.
It’s another tiny country, with a population of 2 million, and its economy is in recession. Its banks are crisis over debt and face restructuring.
And its borrowing costs shot up last week in response to the Cyprus crisis.
Slovenia’s government believes it can ride the crisis out. But the collapse of Cyprus banks has come as a sharp warning for governments across Europe that the euro is still very much in the danger zone.
“Workers in Cyprus will fight,” said Dinos. “The bank workers’ union has called a strike on Thursday. While parliament votes on whether our pension funds are to be saved and on what terms, we’ll have 7 or 8,000 people outside protesting.
“But our future depends on the prospects of workers across Europe. We need to link our struggle with workers in Greece, Spain and Portugal—and even Germany and Britain.
“We’re making an appeal of solidarity to the workers of Europe, to join forces and fight back.”