(Photo: KFIU-Citibank Union members conducting sit-in demonstration at Citibank Korea, 8 June 2021)
Bro Jin Chang-Geun, Citibank Korea union president launched a 24-hour sit-in protest on June 4 in front of the Citibank’s CEO office. The union members followed up with nearly a hundred persons conducting a sit-in demonstration a week later on June 8. More than 700 other members joined in real-time through online video due to Covid restrictions.
On June 3rd, the management board of Citibank Korea finally revealed its plan to sell off the Korean business through a split and partial sale, possibly as part of a package bundled together with Citigroup’s retail business in the other identified Asian countries.
Jin Chang-Geun lamented the Citibank Korea’s lack of human touch, saying, “We have been working for Citibank for so many years and many of us regarded the bank as our second home. Why do we have to go through this suffering now?”
The union pointed out that Citibank had earned over the past five years an average operating profit amounting to KRW 245.9 billion (approx. US$220 million). And that the rush to sell the retail business is a reflection of the management’s failure, not the workers.
Bro Park Hong-Bae, President of KFIU criticized the Citi Bank management, “For the bank it is a matter of how they will sell the business but for thousands of workers it is a matter of life and death. How can the management just send a single email to inform workers of the partial sale plan?”
The KFIU urged the Citibank Korea to be transparent in the sale process and guarantee the union’s participation in the whole process including having a say in the selection of the final take-over company.
The unions’ wariness over the Citibank’s sale plan stemmed from the bank’s past extractive and exploitative practices. Citibank took over KorAm Bank in 2003 and repatriated over KRW4.2 trillion (US$3.75 billion) to the Citigroup head office while closing nearly 150 bank branches over the past decade. The bank was also the sole one that refused to join the Korean’s government’s Emergency Financial Assistance Fund which saw all finance companies voluntarily donating money to the fund during the pandemic.
UNI Apro Regional Secretary Rajendra Acharya said, “We are very appreciative of the KFIU-Citibank Union’s efforts to seek a fair deal for the workers who should not have to suffer the consequences of the bank’s commercial decision. The bank should involve the union in the sale process and we also urge the Financial Services Commission (FSC) to look seriously into the union’s recommendations to ensure a fair outcome for the workers”.