Gas stations to strike after failed talks

Gas station owners yesterday threatened to launch a nationwide strike after failing to reach agreement with the Development Ministry on the introduction of cash tills and sealing of fuel tanks by oil companies. The meeting with Development and Finance Ministry officials yesterday «did not go well,» Dimitris Makrivelios, head of the Federation of Greek Gas Stations (OBE), told Kathimerini English Edition. He said the Development Ministry had responded positively during the talks, unlike the Finance Ministry. There are no plans for other meetings with the government. In a meeting last night, the federation decided to set the date for industrial action on Wednesday, and called on the Finance Ministry to reconsider the measure introducing cash registers. OBE had earlier called for a nationwide strike on November 11 but decided to postpone their protest as they heeded a call from Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos to start negotiations on the contentious issues. The Finance Ministry has said that the 7,300 gas stations around the country need to install cash tills and issue receipts for the sale of diesel and heating oil effective as of January as part of a crackdown on fuel smuggling and tax evasion. It subsequently said the measure would come into force six months later than scheduled as a concession to gas station owners who had requested a year’s delay. Gas stations in Attica and Thessaloniki have until June 30, 2003 to install cash tills while outlets in other parts of the country have until August 31 to follow suit. They will be allowed to issue handwritten receipts until the tills are installed. OBE, however, has linked the cash till issue with the sealing of oil companies’ fuel tanks, saying it would be more effective in combating fuel smuggling. The Finance Ministry, however, said the issue rests with oil companies. It has also sought to put pressure on gas stations with the charge that one in three outlets has failed to pass on lower fuel prices to consumers. Furthermore, a check conducted by the financial crimes squad this year on fuel traders has turned up some 2,500 cases of tax evasion and fuel smuggling perpetrated by 912 companies.

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