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Multi-bill approved at committee level, MPs to vote on measures at midnight

Parliament’s economic affairs committee approved late on Tuesday the multi-bill containing a series of structural reforms and which sets out fiscal measures worth 13.5 billion euros for the next two years. MPs will get the chance to vote on the package at around midnight on Wednesday in a ballot the government is expected to win narrowly.

The majority of deputies on the committee, whose make-up reflects the seats each party has in Parliament, approved the omnibus bill in principle and when voting on it article by article.

Some last minute adjustments were made to the legislation following requests by some lawmakers.

Finance Minister Yannis Stournaras accepted a call from PASOK MPs for reductions of pensions for heavily disable people not to be implemented. Stournaras said these particular savings would instead be made from pensioners earning more than 1,500 euro a month.

Stournaras also told the committee he would withdraw the word “voluntary” from an initiative designed to make Greek shipping firms contribute more to public revenues.

That contribution will have to be at least 140 million euros in the period from 2013 to 2016.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras and his aides appear confident that the coalition government will also win the vote in Parliament’s plenary session on Wednesday.

Samaras and PASOK leader Evangelos Venizelos spoke several times on Tuesday in a bid to ensure that the two “no” votes expected from the Socialist camp would not grow to four or five and that the coalition’s majority would not drop below 154 in the 300-seat House.

PASOK sources indicated that between 27 and 29 of the party’s MPs would vote against the measures. Costas Skandalidis, Theodoros Parastatidis and Markos Bolaris are anticipated defectors unlikely to change their minds. Still, Venizelos reportedly continued meetings with skeptical MPs.

In a meeting on Monday night, Democratic Left’s central committee agreed to vote “present” at the vote, though some MPs might waver from the party line and vote “yes” or “no.”

The omnibus bill lawmakers will be deciding on contains legislation that affects everything from the level of public sector pay to what products can be sold in supermarkets.

The legislation sees the retirement age rising from 65 to 67 pensions between 1,000 and 1,500 euros being cut by 5 percent, those between 1,500 and 2,000 by 10 percent, and those over 2,000 by 15 percent. Christmas, Easter and holiday payments will be scrapped. Lump sum payments for people who enter retirement will be cut by up to 83 percent, depending on the sector.

So-called “special salaries” in the civil service, which are paid to military personnel, security services, judges, doctors and judges will be cut by 2 to 30 percent. Judges will suffer the biggest cuts, with their salaries being slashed by up to 30 percent.

Employees at public enterprises, known as DEKOs, face similar wage cuts as they will be inducted into the across-the-board pay structure for the civil service. This means that salaries will fall by 30 to 35 percent and a ceiling of 1,900 euros per month will be set. There will also be pay reductions for ministry staff, local authority workers, employees at the National Intelligence Service and the country’s president. Civil servants will lose their Christmas, Easter and holiday payments.

The bill paves the way for 2,000 civil servants to be given this year notice of redundancy that allows them to receive 75 percent of their wages for a year before being fired if no other position can be found for them. A further 6,250 civil servants will be dismissed in the same way every three months next year. The limit on one hiring for every five workers that leave will remain in place until 2016.

In terms of labor regulations, the bill gives the government the right to set the minimum wage as of April next year, reduces the redundancy notice period and limits compensation for workers with more than 16 years of service.

The draft legislation also foresees the deregulation of 14 professions, which will affect lawyers and engineers, among others. The bill seeks to remove barriers in other sectors, such as allowing supermarkets to sell tobacco products. It also gives store owners the right to ask employees to work more flexible hours, which could pave the way for Sunday openings.

ekathimerini.com , Wednesday November 7, 2012 (11:18)  
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