Strong opposition toward Alpha’s inclusion in ETAT

The Alpha Bank union of employees has decided to strike on November 21 and 22, protesting a regulation tabled in Parliament that merges the bank’s pension fund with the state-run ETAT fund. ETAT, the auxiliary fund for bank employees set up in 2005, also includes Emporiki Bank and ATEbank, but Alpha’s inclusion has sparked opposition from the Greek Federation of Bank Employees Unions (OTOE), which yesterday announced a work stoppage on November 22, from 12.15 p.m. to 3.15 p.m. The amendment on the issue of the bank’s social security fund yesterday became a bone of contention between the government and the main opposition, with PASOK President George Papandreou making a lengthy reference to it in a speech to his party’s parliamentary group following his meeting with OTOE officials. «The government yesterday [Wednesday] brought before Parliament another provocative amendment on the pension fund of Alpha Bank, without a hint of dialogue with social groups and interested parties,» said Papandreou. «The government aims to transfer the obligations of a private bank to the stillborn ETAT, burdening the state budget just to satisfy the employer’s demand,» he added. The European Parliament’s Committee on Petitions is starting the process of examining claims by the Alpha Bank union that the bank is being indirectly subsidized due to the state resolving its social insurance problem. The petition submitted by the union complains of «direct intervention by the Greek state in union autonomy and abolition of the right of funds to administer their property,» which violates European Union competition rules. The union suggests that as the state accepts it has to cover the bank’s debt of -534 million to the fund, it indirectly favors the bank to the detriment of its competitors. Although the European Commission has responded negatively to a similar question by a Greek MEP, the European Parliament process is separate and not affected by the Commission’s view.