Road blocks dispersed but market strike to continue

Street market vendors yesterday scaled back the level of their protests against legislation mandating the use of cash tills by traders after the government refused to bow to their pressure and repeal the controversial ruling. The vendors decided to call off road blocks set up since Monday evening at highways leading to Athens following a meeting with Deputy Finance Minister Apostolos Fotiadis yesterday but said a two-day strike will continue indefinitely. Infuriated by the government’s decision to compel traders to use cash tills as of next year, street market producers and traders set up road blocks on highways leading to the capital in an effort to stop trucks loaded with fresh produce from proceeding to Athens. They said the action led to a 70-percent fall in the distribution of fresh produce in the capital. Vendors also stayed away from street markets. Still hoping that the government would show more flexibility, vendors said street markets throughout the country will remain closed until further news from the Finance Ministry. Vendors however will be present at markets today to inform the public of the issue but will not be selling any products. The Finance Ministry yesterday reiterated that it has no plans to extend the cash till ruling to fruit and vegetable producers in the future. «Agricultural produce and those selling these products are and in future will be taxed under the existing system,» the ministry said. According to the Development Ministry, the cash till ruling will only affect some 360 traders selling clothing, shoes and household products or about 4 percent of the entire street market community. The Finance Ministry had said the introduction of cash tills would help stamp out illegal trade and tax evasion, as well as level the playing field between street market traders and shops. Traders are also expected to benefit from the higher tax-free threshold on personal incomes that goes into effect next year. Street market vendors are scheduled to meet with representatives from the Finance and Development ministries tomorrow to thresh out issues concerning the modernization of the institutional framework.