An agreement was reached yesterday between bank employers and the employees’ federation OTOE on wage raises for 2004 and 2005. «The meeting lasted over five hours and negotiations were especially tough, given that OTOE had declared from the start that it was not prepared to settle for raises smaller than the National General Collective Labor Agreement, as the banks wanted,» OTOE said in a statement. The average pay rises are 4 percent from January 1, 2004 – to be given retroactively – 2 percent from July 1, 2004, 3 percent from January 1, 2005, and 2.88 percent from September 1, 2005. Lower-paid employees will be given higher raises: For the lowest-paid segment, the rise will be 8.35 percent in 2004 and 5.68 percent in 2005. The agreement was brokered by Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos. OTOE had threatened strikes even during the Olympic Games, in August, if its demands were not met. It was the unions from the state-controlled banks (mainly National and Emporiki) which held out longest for higher rises. The agreement represents a significant climbdown from OTOE’s initial demands. They had asked for an across-the-board rise of 9 percent each year and a reduction of the working week to 35 hours from the current 37. This latter demand was not considered at all. OTOE had staged two 24-hour strikes in recent weeks in pursuit of its demands. The strike succeeded in state-controlled banks; participation in private-sector banks was negligible.