National Bank pay raises cause storm among employee unions

The National Bank of Greece sparked unrest among bank unions with its «arbitrary salary raises» for its staff, which it announced yesterday. The average raise reaches 6.1 percent (and exceeds 8.5 percent with various allowances), but the Greek Federation of Bank Employees’ Unions (OTOE) says this decision was made without any prior consultation with the unions. The powerful body that serves as a umbrella of all banks’ unions said National’s move undermines the institution of collective labor contracts and that the bank’s chairman, Takis Arapoglou, is disputing the union movement. It also warned that unless the bank revokes its «arbitrary» decision, the unions will answer with industrial action. National responded that it had invited its employee union to discuss and agree to staff salary raises, but the latter failed to respond to the invitation, resulting in the bank’s administration deciding to proceed with the salary adjustments for 2008. OTOE wrote to the Hellenic Association of Banks, the Association of Greek Cooperative Banks and the Hellenic Federation of Enterprises (SEV) inviting them to negotiate new collective labor contracts. It also called on the General Confederation of Greek Labor (GSEE), political parties and the prime minister to intervene immediately and decisively «bring Arapoglou back to democratic order,» as it says in its strongly worded statement. GSEE’s reaction came from its president, Yiannis Panagopoulos, who said that «Arapoglou and any bankers hiding behind him are either acting by themselves so the government has to scold them or are acting at the government’s suggestion, so all employees will react.»