Commerzbank employees criticize bonuses and home office rules

Commerzbank headquarters in Frankfurt

Many employees in the future would like to spend more than 50% of their working hours in the home office.

(Photo: dpa)

Frankfurt Group restructuring, job cuts, board changes: the mood has long been bad for many Commerzbank employees. According to information from the Handelsblatt, the new rules for working from home and paying bonuses to employees who are not paid under collective agreements are causing further resentment. Numerous employees also expressed their frustration on the bank’s intranet.

Verdi union secretary Stefan Wittmann, who also sits on Commerzbank’s supervisory board, can understand the anger. “The protests are understandable,” he told Handelsblatt. “All bank employees should be treated equally.” It is therefore incomprehensible that many non-tariff employees, contrary to the board of directors, did not receive bonus payments or only relatively small ones.

“Employees, like the board of directors, deserve higher bonus payments for the strong financial year 2021,” said Wittmann. CEO Manfred Knof alone has received a total remuneration of € 5.7 million in the last year.

Commerzbank distributed variable remuneration totaling approximately € 200 million to its approximately 18,000 non-tariff employees. That’s more than double the previous year, when the institute lost billions. In view of the return to black and the progress in restructuring the group, employees had hoped for higher variable pay by 2021.

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In addition, many consider the bonus system to be too opaque and the communication of the bonus decision inadequate. “The bonus system for non-tariff employees needs to be revised,” asks Wittmann. “This is one of the problems that the new HR chief has to tackle at the latest.”

The Austrian could become the new HR manager

Incumbent Sabine Schmittroth will leave Commerzbank at the end of the year. According to financial circles, the favorite for her successor is Sabine Mlnarsky, who is currently head of human resources at the Austrian Erste group.

The lawyer left a good impression in discussions with CEO Knof and representatives from the supervisory board, several people familiar with the subject said. It is therefore very likely that Mlnarsky will be appointed as the new Chief Human Resources Officer at the next meeting of the Supervisory Board on 6 July. Commerzbank and Erste Group declined to comment on the staff, as reported for the first time by the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung”.

Compared to Deutsche Bank, the bonus payments at Commerzbank are manageable. However, the topic repeatedly heats the minds of yellows, most recently in early 2019.

Many on the newly formed Commerzbank board see the protests as the result of failed incentive policies in the past. According to financial circles, therefore, they want to review employee remuneration rules and make them less arbitrary.

Verdi asks for more flexibility when working from home

Many employees also see a need to take action regarding the requirements for working from home. After the interior ministry requirement ceased to exist in March, the institute agreed on a transitional arrangement with the works council. “This now allows you to work on the go for up to half working hours on a quarterly basis,” said a spokesperson for the bank. Employees and managers could individually agree on the specific design.

“We are looking for a balanced mix of mobile work and presence in the office,” said the spokesperson. The 50 percent agreed in the transitional agreement corresponds to the actual share of the Ministry of the Interior in recent months.

However, many employees would like to continue to spend more time working from home. The employee representative Wittmann can understand this. From his point of view, the transitional regulation is “a good first step” – but not enough: “This regulation is lived too rigidly in many departments,” complained the trade unionist. “I would like to see more flexibility from IT staff in particular, because it usually doesn’t matter if they work from the office or from home.”

If the bank does not offer IT staff an acceptable framework, there is a risk that they will lose even more. “In view of the major restructuring of the bank, we absolutely must prevent it.”

From Wittmann’s point of view, the agreement the institute entered into for its digital consulting center shows that more than 50 percent of the home office is possible in many areas. Employees can work from home up to 70% of the time.

“In addition, the management is moving more and more jobs to our locations in Bucharest and Lodz, where the work is also done digitally,” said Wittmann. “I don’t understand why this isn’t possible to the same extent in Frankfurt and other German locations.”

Moreover: The inconvenient Mr. Gottschalk: the head of the supervisory board confronts Commerzbank with a new world.

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