Employees at Deutsche Bank-owned Postbank have walked off the job in eastern Germany. It comes as Deutsche is considering a sale of the retail bank to streamline its operations and enhance profitability.
Industrial action hit the eastern states of Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and parts of Brandenburg on Monday morning, with many bank branches remaining shut.
Workers from the cities of Leipzig, Dresden, Halle and Cottbus among others were expected to attend a demonstration in Berlin later on Monday.
"Workers want better and extended protection against dismissal," according to Marko Wunderlich from the Verdi union. Many Postbank employees fear being laid off if Deutsche Bank decides to sell the retail banking unit.
Unions are demanding protection from dismissal for all of the 9,500 staff until 2020, plus a 5-percent payrise. Employers have rejected the demands, which led to the decision to go on strike. During the course of this week, Postbank workers will extend industrial action across other German states.
Deutsche Bank could give details of a major overhaul of its operations as early as Friday, when Deutsche Bank's supervisory board meets, according to German media reports.
There have been several reports over the last week that Deutsche plans to hive off Postbank, but a Deutsche Bank spokesman said "reports that a decision has already been taken are wrong", insisting that the banking giant was weighing several options.
Postbank, which used to be part of former state-owned postal service Deutsche Post, was privatized in 1995 and listed on the stock exchange. Deutsche Bank bought the retail banking business in 2010, to reduce its dependence on investment banking.
But record-low interest, tough competition in retail banking and a general shift in strategy at Deutsche have led to speculation about a sale of Postbank.
ng/hg (dpa, AFP)