More early pensions

Greece’s largest lender, National Bank, is likely to launch a new early retirement program to cut staff and costs, the country’s labor minister said yesterday. «Based on what we’ve been told, there is a board meeting tomorrow on early retirement,» Labor Minister Panos Panayiotopoulos told reporters after a meeting with Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis on labor issues. But a senior National Bank official told Reuters the bank’s board would not discuss the issue at today’s meeting. «I confirm that there won’t be such an issue on the agenda of tomorrow’s board meeting,» the official said on condition of anonymity. «Nor was such an issue scheduled for discussion.» Panayiotopoulos said National will have to pay for the cost of the new scheme. New blood The bank launched its largest voluntary redundancy plan last year to trim costs and add new blood, incurring a cost of 114 million euros but trimming the annual payroll by 70 million euros. A total of 1,521 employees took up National’s offer out of its then 14,000 workers. National Bank’s employees union said Chief Executive Takis Arapoglou was planning to seek board approval for a new voluntary redundancy plan involving 1,400 staff, «the second in the last 12 months.» «Thus, in a period of 12 months, management is showing the door to 20 percent of the bank’s staff,» the union said in a statement, adding that it would protest the move at the bank’s board meeting today. It said the exodus would create a financial strain on the main pension fund, which is projected to end the year with a 22-million-euro deficit, against a surplus of 1.45 million in 2004. (Reuters, Kathimerini)