“On strike. The standardized case will never be sold “When Caixa Geral de Depósitos (CGD) employees express their anger, as happened last Tuesday, on the streets of Paris, it is in a subtle mixture of French and Portuguese. Nothing surprising. The 535 employees at Caixa – Pronounced “Kéicha” – they are the bankers from the Portuguese community. Individuals, small entrepreneurs, associations… The institution has 150,000 clients. All, or almost all, of them belong to the Lusitanian diaspora.
However, since the outbreak of social conflict on April 16, this bank has seen a slowdown. “If current processes such as check transfers succeed, everything related to credits, whether those for individuals or companies, will be banned,” says a bank employee. “Two agencies out of 48 have been closed,” explains the company's management.
Thus, employees begin their ninth week of strike. A social conflict of unusual length for a very peaceful banking sector. Mobilization remains significant: 30% of employees are on strike, according to management, and 50% according to employee representatives.
“Our customers are our neighbors, our friends, our families.”
The origin of the conflict is due to the financial difficulties faced by the parent company. Portugal's largest public bank, CGD, is entering a “bailout plan.” Lisbon reinjected 2.5 billion euros of public money last year. However, to gain approval from the European authorities, it was necessary to promise clear reductions in its workforce.
On the list, in particular, is a radical reduction in Caixa's international network. “This plan expires in 2020, and by then, the French branch should disappear,” points out Manuela dos Santos, a trade union representative. The problem is that the plan to close – or sell – the French branch has not been formally submitted to the employee representative bodies in France.
“Above all, we ask for access to the plan and knowledge of the details. “We want to know what sauce we will eat in,” sums up Manuela dos Santos. The goal: to get out of the ambiguity and start negotiating the terms of potential layoffs and, above all, know what to answer to customers who have questions. “Our customers are our neighbours, our friends and our families,” confirms Pazinha Boisot, CFTC representative. To clarify: “It's complicated on Sundays when you encounter them. We try to reassure them, but we don't! »
Employees demand a restructuring plan
To get their managers to act, employees toughen their tone a bit by initiating legal action against their management. They have been brought together in a “negotiating committee” and are demanding, in brief, that the restructuring plan be communicated. In response, their administration is also referring them to court. The Paris Supreme Court is expected to consider these two measures on Tuesday.
In contact with Le Parisien-Aujourd'hui en France, the administration acknowledged that there was “uncertainty about the future” of the institutions created in France a few months ago. But the tide was going to turn. “The French branch has received a letter of commitment from the Board of Directors, the contents of which have been drawn to the attention of employees. This letter reaffirms that one of the official objectives of CGD is to keep the France branch within the scope of the CGD Group.
It is clear that the French section can still be saved. “La Caixa Geral de Depósitos is also convinced that the Portuguese government will support this goal,” the administration wrote. It remains to be seen whether this potential change of opinion will be accepted by European authorities.