Banks converge on pensions

Greek banks yesterday took a major step toward tackling the hot potato of their unfunded social insurance liabilities, presenting a common proposal to the government and bank employees that will be partners to a deal. The development is important mainly because the National Bank of Greece (NBG), the country’s largest, which had raised the strongest objections to a common proposal, has now consented, and because the Federation of Bank Employee Associations (OTOE) had refused to continue negotiations unless banks did come up with such a proposal. However, the common plan still leaves out EFG Eurobank, which continues to express reservations. The proposal envisages the integration of bank employees’ main pension funds with the Social Security Foundation (IKA), and converges with OTOE’s demand for the formation of a single auxiliary pension fund. Although OTOE yesterday abstained from the session of the tripartite technical committee debating the issue and announced new strike action on Monday, it is considered likely that the strike will be called off and that OTOE will participate in Monday’s scheduled session. In such a case, a tripartite agreement is also seen as likely. OTOE’s general council yesterday decided to coordinate mobilizations with workers in public utilities on social insurance and other issues arising from the restructuring of large enterprises, such as OTE Telecom. A joint nationwide 24-hour strike is planned for March 17. In yesterday’s OTOE meeting, council officials expressed fears that the government is aiming at «knocking down hard-won social insurance rights.» The council decided to demand that the government come up with new proposals for negotiations to continue. OTOE’s position is that banks will have to bear the brunt of the financial cost of setting up a single pension fund for bank workers, given their impressive profitability growth rates in recent years.

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