By George Psyllides
Public sector unions called off a general strike for Friday after receiving assurances during a meeting with President Nicos Anastasiades that the government would not tax their retirement bonus and other pension benefits.
Doctors also suspended their measures.
The chief of central government workers union PASYDY said explanations had been provided and “any misunderstandings were lifted.”
“The president’s intervention was especially positive,” Glafkos Hadjipetrou said. “He reassured that there was no question of taxing the retirement bonus and there was no intention of further cuts in pay and pension benefits.”
Unions called the strike after Finance Minister Harris Georgiades said the issue was being examined as part of the Troika-imposed economic adjustment programme.
“The issue is being considered from the perspective of ironing out existing distortions of public service reform issues, and of fiscal sustainability,” he said. “All possibilities are on the table, but no decision has been made yet.”
Hadjipetrou expressed hope that dialogue would take place “because through it we can arrive at consensual arrangements. The country needs calm.”
Reports suggested that in the past couple of weeks many civil servants had applied for early retirement for fear of losing part of their benefits.
“Unfortunately the climate in the past two weeks has led colleagues to early retirement,” said Demetris Taliadoros, chairman of OELMEK, the secondary teachers union. “Unofficial data says that 30 colleagues have applied for retirement in 15 days.”
Filios Fylaktou, of the primary teachers union, echoed Taliadoros saying around 20 educators have voiced their intention to leave.
Government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides told reporters that the government had assured unions it had no intention to tax retirement bonuses or impose further cuts on pensions and salaries.
“It was agreed with the union leaderships to continue the dialogue so that beyond finding ways to secure fundamental pension rights and strengthening pension security, the viability of state finances would also be ensured,” Christodoulides said.