Bank of Cyprus occupied!

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Thousands of Bank of Cyprus employees remained in occupation of the bank’s Nicosia headquarters in defence of their jobs yesterday, after hearing that the ‘restructuring’ agreed in the EU bailout deal involves thousands of bank job cuts.

The occupation began on Tuesday after the country’s largest commercial bank announced plans to take over Laiki Bank, the island’s second largest bank also known as Cyprus Popular Bank.

Cypriot officials said the deal would mean the country would shift its focus away from being an international centre of financial services. That is expected to cost jobs, adding to the unemployment rate which now stands at around 14 per cent.

‘If their only goal right from the start was to destroy the banking sector of Cyprus then it looks like they found the way. After Popular Bank it will be us and even worse after that,’ said Bank of Cyprus employee Panicos Stelaianou.

Bank of Cyprus chairman, Andreas Artemis, and four other board members have resigned, complaining that the government has failed to tell them it was appointing an administrator to oversee the bank’s restructuring.

Nicosia secured a 10-billion-euro bailout deal on Monday from the Troika – the European Union (EU), the European Central Bank (ECB) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – involving a 40 per cent tax on deposits of over 100,000 euros and the shutting down of the Popular Bank.

Cyprus is to impose severe limits on money transfers and withdrawals, while extra security guards are on hand for today, provided the government reopens the banks.

• Following the Cypriot banks’ collapse the Athens stock exchange collapsed by 4.9 per cent last Tuesday and by lunchtime Wednesday it was diving by a further 3.5 per cent.

On Wednesday morning, the Cypriot Finance Minister Mikhalis Sarris stated in a TV programme that one of the reasons for the collapse was that the Cypriot Popular Bank since 2007 made ‘unchecked huge loans’ to Greek companies.

He also said that when he was made head of the bank, the Cypriot Popular Bank was already ‘in tatters’ and he just kept it breathing for the last two years until Cyprus appealed for EU help.

The Greek bourgeois press stated that the EC-IMF-ECB troika will impose over 50 per cent ‘haircuts’ on Cypriot banks’ accounts and also a widespread programme of privatisations and deep wage and pension cuts resulting in very high unemployment.

• Meanwhile, unemployment in France climbed toward a record high in February for the 22nd month running and has reached its highest level since 1997.

The number of registered jobseekers in the eurozone’s second-largest economy rose by 18,400 from January to 3.188 million, the highest since June 1997 and close to the record of 3.196 reached in January of that year.