Bank embroiled in protests by workers

ABOUT 300 employees of Hongkong Bank's offices in Jakarta went on strike yesterday, demanding six per cent pay rises and pension improvements.

''The employer has refused to negotiate and just wanted to settle the problem through the Manpower Ministry,'' said Budiman Abdullah, chairman of the workers' association at the bank.

However, a bank manager denied the bank had refused to negotiate with the union.

''We feel we have offered them a good deal and we expect them to return to work before we negotiate,'' he said.

He claimed the bank had been negotiating for the past three months and had offered ''not far off'' the six per cent asked.

Mr Budiman said the workers had lowered their pay rise demand to six per cent from the 15 per cent demanded when talks began two months ago.

The strike has forced the bank to shut one of its branches and bank managers are having to act as tellers in some offices.

Meanwhile, in Manila former employees of Hongkong Bank continued to picket outside the bank's branches yesterday.

About 150 of the bank's workers who went on strike in late December over opposition to a job evaluation programme have been sacked.

However, the employees claimed their dismissal was illegal and one of the pickets, Mercedes Paula, said yesterday that they were waiting for labour officials to arbitrate a settlement.