With Prime Minister Antonis Samaras, the New Democracy Conservative leader, hoping there won’t be a repeat of last year’s repeated strikes, protests and riots against austerity measures he’s imposing on the orders of international lenders, workers in tax offices across Greece walked off the jobs on April 23 and staged a rally outside the Finance Ministry.
According to the union of tax workers, POE DOY, the protest was to pressure the government to abolish “unjust taxation policies” such as an emergency levy colloquially known as “haratsi,” a 100 percent property tax surcharge put into electric bills under the threat of having power turned off for non-payment, which is happening to about 30,000 customers a month.
The government said it would reduce the tax by 15 percent. The levy, ordered by former finance minister Evangelos Venizelos, now head of the PASOK Socialists which is one of Samaras’ coalition partners, was begun two years ago and was supposed to be for one year only but looks to be permanent.
The workers are also demanding that no one is fired from key posts at tax offices and that employees hired via the Supreme Council for Personnel Selection (ASEP) see their salaries restored to levels before the government implemented pay cuts, tax hikes and slashed pensions on most workers in the country, apart from Parliament workers who were exempted when they threatened to strike too. Samaras said he would bring them under austerity but has backed down from them several times.
The union of chartered accountants also said it would join the action, calling on its members to refrain from conducting any transactions with tax authorities, further hampering the government’s ability to collect critically-needed taxes as revenues are off projections despite big pay taxes as austerity has made Greeks slow spending dramatically.