Banks hold onto employees despite downturn

Despite the rapid deterioration in economic conditions and the slowdown in banking activity, the country’s major commercial banks have maintained staff numbers both in Greece and in their subsidiaries abroad. Data for the January-March 2010 period show that the country’s major commercial lenders have kept the same number of posts, and the minor decline seen in employees is not due to layoffs but mainly due to people retiring. At the end of March, the total number of people employed by the four big banks in Greece (National, EFG Eurobank, Alpha and Piraeus) came to 51,439 people, posting a marginal decline of 1.5 percent from the same period in 2009. The picture is similar for those banks’ subsidiaries abroad, with all four of them employing just 2 percent fewer people than in the first quarter of last year. The crisis may have not cost many jobs but it has had a direct impact on employment in the sector in different ways: Over the last few years banks had a steady stream of new jobs on offer but the start of the crisis brought a sudden halt to hirings. Furthermore, banks are now renewing the limited time contracts of hundreds of employees who worked as associates due to the crisis and drop in activity. Bank officials told Kathimerini that, apart from the nonrenewal of contracts, banks do not intend to cut anymore jobs, as human resources and peaceful labor relations are seen as key for the reputation and the effective operation of each bank. The protection of jobs is also a main priority for bank employees’ union OTOE in the context of negotiations toward signing a new collective labor agreement.