ECONOMY

Gas station pumps to dry up next week as strike begins

Yesterday’s meeting between gas station owners and Deputy Economy and Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis failed to end in a compromise, making a strike almost certain next week. Gas station owners object to state requirements for cash registers to be connected to gasoline and diesel pumps, saying that cash registers would not faithfully record the flow of fuel, causing them significant losses. Even though the Economy and Finance Ministry had accepted the station owners’ proposal to recognize a margin of error in favor of station owners during fuel inspections, station owners withdrew their proposal and insisted that pumps be sealed and cash registers stationed inside the station’s offices. The owners proposed that it is the oil companies themselves that should seal the pumps. Fotiadis said that this was not a matter for him to solve and told them to send their proposal to the Development Ministry. The Economy and Finance Ministry insists on the cash register measure in order to reclaim what it considers significant tax evasion and also says would protect consumers from unscrupulous gas station owners who might fill vehicles with less fuel than paid for. The ministry also says the measure is essential to combat contraband in fuel. Fotiadis told station owners that he understood they could not comply with the measure immediately and extended the original deadline of July 1 by two months, to September 1. Station owners were not satisfied with the proposals and said they would keep their stations shut indefinitely. Station owners asked the minister to delay any decision until experts at the National Technical University of Athens completed a study on an alternative solution to link the fuel system with electronic monitoring systems. This study will not be ready until next summer, at the earliest. This is why Fotiadis refused to consider it as an alternative. He said fighting tax evasion and contraband trade were absolute priorities. After the meeting, the head of the gas station owners’ association, Dimitris Makryvelias, said that an indefinite strike would start on Monday, adding that his association was «completely opposed» to connecting fuel pumps to cash registers. Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos, speaking in Parliament, called on the gas station owners to resume dialogue to find a mutually acceptable solution. The use of cash registers has already been voted on by Parliament and the law was supposed to go into effect on January 1 this year. The Finance Ministry has already pushed back the deadline twice. It now seems determined to stick to the September 1 deadline and to impose fines on those who fail to comply. On the other hand, a protracted strike would have disastrous consequences, at a time when vacationers leave cities to go on holidays, and which the government is aware of. Talks with the station owners are expected to continue even as the strike begins.