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Novo Banco’s strong-arm ‘dismissals’ are illegal, says labour court

Novo Banco has ridden right into a new storm, with a Porto labour court saying its strong-arm tactics with staff who do not want to accept so-called ‘amicable dismissals’ are illegal.

The peremptory tactics adopted by the ‘good bank’ have been a matter of controversy for months.

Staff have complained of being locked-out of their offices after ‘slipping out for a cigarette’ (click here), while last month a man with 29 years service leapt to his death from a nine storey window.

According to Correio da Manhã, 54-year-old Alberto Lisboa was one of the hundreds given their marching orders (click here) in Novo Banco’s restructuring programme.

But now, former employee Luís Campilho has won the right to return to his desk.

For the Syndicate of Bankers from the North (SBN), the labour tribunal victory confirms their premise that “Novo Banco has been promoting savage early dismissal” that is not in any way justified.

Público explains that SBN’s criticism is levelled at Novo Banco’s decision to “collectively dismiss” workers who did not want to accept the bank’s so-called ‘amicable terms’.

Says SBN, there is “the conviction” that enough workers exist who are “willing to close their contracts by agreement” so that Novo Banco does not have to go after staff members that it “wants to exclude at all costs”.

It is thus not a good moment for the bank that was dubbed ‘the good bank’ when it morphed from the ashes of BES in late 2014.

Since then it has successively lost money and its ‘white knight’ drafted in from Lloyds of London to sell it well “and promptly” is due to leave Portugal in September with nothing like the record of achievement promised on his albeit temporary appointment.

Indeed, Expresso said last month that one of Eduardo Stock da Cunha’s last acts would be to fire the 69 members of staff holding out against dismissal.

This now looks like it may well not happen.

Público says Campilho’s success is just one of a number of legal challenges under consideration.

The judges’ grounds for acceptance were that a firm can “release an employee from his/her duty of attendance, but it cannot forbid him/her from turning up for work” while a valid work contract remains in place.

Labour law expert Tiago Cortes also told the paper that the law is clear: “Forbidding access is a violation of the duty of full-time employment”.

At time of writing, Público said it was unable to reach Novo Banco for a comment.

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