The Ceylon Banking Employees’ Union branch members in HSBC Sri Lanka launched a Wear Black campaign to express their frustration with the management’s delay in concluding a collective agreement covering 2021-2023.
The union had hoped for a positive outcome from the anticipated talks in early March. But with no resolution in sight by mid-March, the union decided that the negotiations had failed, and more visible and intensified action was necessary.
The CBEU-HSBC first rallied the members to wear black ribbons in protest. They then launched their own “Black Friday” version, with members wearing black to work from April 1 onwards and sharing a lunch break in solidarity.
The union’s unhappiness is aggravated by Sri Lanka’s worst economic crisis since independence.
Due to a severe lack of foreign exchange, the country is unable to pay for imports of food, fuel, and other necessities. The resulting shortages of products and power disruptions fueled resentment. Protests have broke out in the capital and other regions of the country throughout March.
At the same time, the bank’s top executives enjoyed big bonuses and other benefits. In contrast, the bank’s rank and file employees were refused a collective bargaining agreement which would help lessen the impact of the extraordinary crisis.
UNI Asia and Pacific Regional Secretary Rajendra Acharya expressed concern over the developing situation, saying, “UNI Apro fully supports CBEU-HSBC’s solidarity campaign. The Sri Lanka HSBC Management should be more sensitive and help its staff during this economic crisis. And the best way of doing it is to conclude a fair collective agreement with the union speedily with no further delay.”