Deadline for bank pension dispute

In a show of determination to reform Greece’s labyrinthine and teetering social security system, the government yesterday gave banks and their workers a week to settle their pension dispute or be forced to accept its own solution. After meeting with the Federation of Bank Employees (OTOE), Economy and Finance Minister Giorgos Alogoskoufis proposed the creation of a single auxiliary pension fund for bank employees. He warned that if the two sides could not agree by Friday, the government would take the initiative and force the deal through. Alogoskoufis proposed that any banks that already have their own supplementary fund could sign up to the new single fund within three months. Two-thirds of the fund’s cost will be covered by the banks and the rest by the state. The single fund will cover employees who have been hired since the beginning of 1993, said the minister. Staff hired before then will be covered by existing arrangements. OTOE president Dimitris Tsoukalas said he detected a hint of «blackmail» in the government’s proposal. Last week he said the idea of solving the problem on a unilateral basis was a «cause for war.» Employees and banks have been locked in talks over pensions for the last six months. The issue has gained added urgency because of a requirement under International Financial Reporting Standards that all listed companies, including banks, should include such liabilities on their balance sheets by the end of June.

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