After long and hard negotiations, bankers and the Federation of Bank Union Employees (OTOE) yesterday were reported to be one step away from the signing of a collective labor pact for the sector as a whole, which would include opening for business in the afternoon and on Saturdays. At a meeting initiated by the president of the General Confederation of Greek Workers, Yiannis Panagopoulos, banks’ representatives presented improved proposals regarding both pay and working hours. The package includes a pact for two years (2006 and 2007), with a monthly pay increase of -45, payable in two installments: the first retroactively from January 1, 2006, and the second as of January 1, 2007. Regarding business hours, banks proposed that each group should able to operate up to 10 branches on weekday afternoons and on Saturdays. The exact number of such branches would depend on the size of each group. Bank staff working in the afternoons and on Saturdays would have a weekly total of 35 hours. The special bonus for weekend work is to be agreed upon between each bank and its staff union. The same terms of work will apply to staff employed in special bank departments, that is, their shift will end at 8 p.m. on weekdays. OTOE’s representatives declined to make an official statement after the meeting and did not cancel today’s planned strike. Nevertheless, the workers’ union said in a statement that the banks’ new proposals «provide a new perspective which has to be explored within the framework of a satisfactory collective agreement that will take the federation’s views into account.» «Both sides expressed the will to sign a pact for the sector as a whole and a joint commitment to continue the dialogue in the coming days until an agreement is reached,» the OTOE statement added. The statement provides a clear indication that the majority of OTOE members desire the signing of a pact – perhaps with some amendments – before the organization’s congress on Thursday. This is largely related to OTOE’s politics and the various party-affiliated fractions which are jostling for greater gains in its internal elections.