After months of tense negotiations, management and employee representatives at OTE, Greece’s main telecommunications operator, yesterday agreed upon the country’s biggest ever voluntary retirement scheme. According to this, 6,000 staff will leave the company at a cost of over 1 billion euros. «This agreement signals the first, but fundamental, step toward the effective control of our operational costs. The reduction in our manpower by almost a third will allow us to reach the levels of productivity enjoyed by our European counterparts,» said OTE Telecom CEO Panayis Vourloumis. The deal allows any employees who are due to reach retirement age by the end of 2012 to join the scheme. Some 6,000 out of almost 16,000 staff are eligible and will receive a one-off lump sum payment of between 4,500 and 30,000 euros. OTE will also cover their social security contributions, in line with the time served with the company and their pay scale, until they reach the official retirement age of 65. The state, which is the main shareholder in OTE with a 37.7 percent stake, will also contribute financially to the early retirement scheme. Details of what its commitment would be were not immediately clear. Vourloumis, who in December claimed that OTE was ready for full privatization, said that the company would reorganize over the next few months. «Even though the cost of restructuring will affect our economic performance for 2005, it is a vital investment in OTE’s future,» he said.