Banks pull plug on union pay talks

Six of the country’s largest banks refused yesterday to enter talks on a collective wage agreement with the Federation of Bank Employees’ Unions (OTOE) on the grounds that changing market conditions demand more flexibility. In a synchronized move, National Bank of Greece, Eurobank, Alpha Bank, ATEBank, Emporiki and Piraeus banks said in letters sent to OTOE that they will negotiate wage agreements with their individual unions. National Bank, the country’s largest lender, said that negotiations directly with its employees will enable it to secure better solutions to its specific issues. The move signals a large shift in labor relations between the financial sector and unions. The controversial decision appears to have the support of the conservative government, which has been pushing for wider labor market reforms. OTOE responded angrily to the move, calling it a constitutional breach. «No one, no matter how financially strong, is above the constitution and the law,» OTOE warned. Banks and union groups were in a drawn-out battle last summer over changes to the pension system, which resulted in strike action that shut down banks for weeks. Opposition parties criticized the move and accused the government of adopting an employer-friendly stance.

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