OTOE, the federation of bank employees’ unions, yesterday lashed out at private-sector banks and called on the government to «intervene immediately» to prevent them from «dragging the rest of the banks toward their own rules of operation.» OTOE’s outburst followed yesterday’s ninth, unsuccessful meeting with the Hellenic Bank Association over pay rises and a change in working hours. OTOE is opposed to proposals by the banks to extend branch opening hours, even though under the proposal, employees would work fewer hours. At present, banks are open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and from 8 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. on Fridays. A few branches are open on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons and none during weekends. Under the employers’ proposal, employees would report to work at 8.20 a.m. and leave at 3.45 p.m., reducing the working week from 38 hours 20 minutes to 37 hours 45 minutes. Opening hours would be from 8.30 a.m. to 3.15 p.m., Monday to Friday, thus rising from 29 hours 30 minutes to 33 hours 45 minutes. OTOE yesterday countered with its own proposal of working hours: from 7.50 a.m. to 3.15 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and to 2.30 p.m. on Friday. OTOE accepts extending current opening hours by half an hour per day, to 32 hours. OTOE’s call to the government to intervene – the first such official call, for others have been made behind the scenes – is based on its officials’ belief that it is EFG Eurobank, Greece’s second largest private-sector bank and third overall, which has most consistently followed a hard line and which has prevented other banks from compromising. On pay, both sides are still far apart. Employers proposed a rise of 3.8 percent in 2002 and 3.5 percent in 2003, improving its previous offering by a total of 0.3 percent. OTOE insisted on its own proposal for a 10-percent rise over the past two years. Privately, OTOE officials say they would accept a 9.2-percent rise over the two years, like the one agreed between the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE) and the Federation of Greek Industries (SEV), but they could not go lower. OTOE has already had one 48-hour strike, which took place last Wednesday and Thursday. On Thursday, its General Council will meet to decide on further action.