(Adds Bank Austria statement, detail)
VIENNA, Jan 26 (Reuters) - Austria is considering a change in law to allow UniCredit unit Bank Austria’s cost-cutting plan to switch thousands of workers to the state pension system from its own private one, the finance minister said on Tuesday.
Hans Joerg Schelling said Bank Austria’s plan, which would apply to 3,300 employees, did not appear to be legal under the current legislation, but the lender said it believed it was already on solid legal ground.
UniCredit, Italy’s biggest bank by assets, last month announced a plan to restructure retail operations in Austria and make 300 million euros ($324.9 million) in savings by 2018, with a further 150 million euros in annual savings after that. .
Bank Austria said provisions it had made for its staff’s private pension payouts would cover the restructuring costs, as well as compensation payments to the 3,300 employees it planned to switch to the state system.
“I think that is not possible according to the (current) law,” Schelling said of the plan, speaking to reporters before a weekly cabinet meeting. “One would have to change the law and we are currently examining that internally.”
The head of one of Austria’s main state pension providers told broadcaster ORF earlier on Tuesday that the law enabled the transfer of individual employees into the state system, but it was not clear whether that was possible for such a large group.
Bank Austria, however, said legal precedent was on its side.
“The transfer of Bank Austria employees ... is taking place under clear legal stipulations that regulate changes in pension systems,” a company statement said. “The statutory regulation has existed for a long time. It has affected a high number of employees, (switching) in both directions.” ($1 = 0.9234 euros) (Reporting by Shadia Nasralla, Kirsti Knolle and Francois Murphy; Editing by Mark Heinrich)