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Air Traffic Controllers Warn of Strike

Air traffic controllers have warned that they may strike after a broad consensus was reached by trade unions SEK, PEO and PASYDY to hold a three-hour work stoppage on December 15th.

Next Thursday, union members will picket outside the Ministry of Finance and then march to the House of Representatives where MPs will be discussing the state budget for 2012. The work stoppage starts at 10am and ends at 1pm.

Unions said that the strike will not affect essential services like hospitals, airports and ports.

The three-hour work stoppage is a relative compromise after public sector trade union PASYDY decided to postpone a 12-hour strike set for December 8th after a meeting with President Demetris Christofias.

Trade unions have reacted resentfully against a new package of measures proposed by a broad consensus of political parties and the president.

Analysts say that the trade union movement has been given too much power by the government, which is unwilling to restrict its excesses.

"How can salary raises, COLA (Cost of Living Allowance) increases be given in the public sector in conditions of recession, international crisis and severe financial problems?" said economist Dr. Andreas Theophanous.

This also threatens development because trade unions are carrying out an ideological attack on 'wealth', he said.

The new package agreed between President Demetris Christofias and political parties includes:

-Freezing Cost of Living Allowance (CoLA) and state employee salaries for two years.
-A temporary contribution from private employees who earn more than 2,500 euros per month that will be shared equally by the employee and employer.
-A rise in tax on dividends from 17 percent to 20 percent.
-Reviewing property taxes.
-Passing a bill raising VAT from 15 to 17 percent.
-Savings from social benefits of 200 million euros.
-Combating tax evasion by taxing loans taken by directors of companies and their families, and by withholding salaries for which no regular contributions were made to the Social Insurance Fund.
-Reviewing various financial allowances in the public sector with a view to removing or modifying them.
-Taking steps to support growth such as strengthening small and medium enterprises in cooperation with the European Investment Bank.
-Provide tax incentives for investing profits in development projects and automation.
-Establishing a committee with the Ministry of Finance and political parties related to reducing the operating costs of the public sector and reviewing the contribution from wealthy individuals.

The measures are expected to be voted on in the House of Representatives on December 8th after being approved by the Council of Ministers on December 7th.

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