NBG wants 1,900 to take voluntary retirement

The management of the National Bank of Greece, the country’s largest, is going to implement one of the biggest voluntary retirement programs by offering generous incentives. The bank wants to include 1,900 out of its 14,000 employees in the program. The employees must be at least 52 years old and normally eligible for full retirement benefits (having completed 35 years of service) after December 31, 2010. The incentives offered range from 10 percent of the lump sum retirement bonus offered to employees who retire normally to the full package, which can be in excess of 50,000 euros for high-ranking employees. The proposal also includes alternative incentives, such as promotion to a higher rank. The management submitted the proposal to the bank’s employees union and negotiations on its final content began on Monday. The union has misgivings about the measure, fearing mostly its cost and effect on their main and auxiliary pension funds. A first estimate by the unionists puts the cost of the early retirement scheme at 140 million euros over the next four years. A more accurate estimate is expected soon. A sweetener included by the management, which allowed the children of the retirees to be hired if they were graduates of universities or technical colleges and they successfully completed an examination, was withdrawn after the unionists objected. This is the largest-ever personnel turnover attempted in the Greek banking sector and would reduce National Bank’s work force by up to 15 percent. While some analysts predicted that other banks will try to absorb the best of the voluntary retirees, other countered that they were likely to institute their own retirement schemes rather than hiring from a pool of employees who have worked all their life in a state-controlled bank and who will demand high wages because of their past experience.