No state aid for fund

Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis is expected to present today, at an Inner Cabinet meeting, a revised version of the draft law consolidating all bank employees’ auxiliary pension funds into one. The main revision concerns financing of the new integrated fund: It will be provided exclusively by banks, after the initial plan calling for banks to provide two-thirds of the funds and the state to provide the rest was called off. The government fears, or has already been secretly advised of, objections by European Commission officials who might question whether government aid runs counter to competition rules. Alogoskoufis, who met yesterday with Employment Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos, said the government was «forced» to change the provisions of the draft law. In any case, the government will contribute indirectly to the new fund, as the major shareholder in two banks (Agricultural and Emporiki) which, incidentally, face the greatest problems with their employees’ auxiliary pension funds. Alogoskoufis’s declaration provoked the reaction of the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), which called it «the culmination of an amateurish (attitude) which endangers the whole of the social security system.» «The government’s effort to subsidize the bankers through the state budget has been called off, because it runs counter to EU law. The insistence on creating the single auxiliary pension fund in the form of a public legal entity is revealing: What is really at stake is the auxiliary pension funds’ reserves,» GSEE added. GSEE, which supports the creation of a single, independent fund controlled by the employees, said that even this revised effort to intervene and «subjugate» the auxiliary pension funds and cut back on employees’ rights achieved through collective bargaining will fall through. Last week, Dimitris Tsoukalas, president of the bank employees’ umbrella union OTOE, had also expressed his opposition to state budget resources being used to prop up the auxiliary pension funds. He had implied that this apparent largesse was part of the government’s effort to portray bank employees as a privileged lot and to divide the union movement. «If OTOE falls, the rest will follow… We will see changes in working hours and greater flexibility,» he had warned. OTOE has secured the support of both big union confederations, GSEE (which includes employees in the public sector and public utilities) and the civil servants’ union ADEDY. GSEE president Christos Polyzogopoulos was in Geneva yesterday, where he met with International Labor Organization officials. Polyzogopoulos said that the government’s intervention was in violation of two International Labor Agreements (92 and 102). ILO officials said that they would intervene if the government insists on its draft law. Today, the OTOE executive will meet to decide whether the rolling 48-hour strikes will continue. A further 48-hour strike is the more likely outcome and there are even calls for an indefinite strike, which have so far not found much favor with OTOE. The union says participation in the strike remains at around 70 percent. On Thursday, public utilities’ employees will strike for three hours (noon to 3 p.m.) and will take part at a rally outside OTOE’s offices, at Vissarionos and Sina streets in central Athens.

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