Turkish government could amend IMF-sought bill

Turkish government said on Friday it could make amendments to the social security reform and will meet the unions soon following a two-hour warning strike launched as a protest against the bill.

Turkish government could amend IMF-sought bill
Turkish Labor and Social Security Minister Faruk Celik said they would meet the social parties soon but noted any postponement in the reform was out of question, the Anatolian Agency reported.

Turkey's social security deficit exceeded 25 billion lira ($20 billion) in 2007, and officials warned it would reach nearly 30 billion lira this year if the reform is not passed. The long-delayed social security reform aims to cut this huge deficit and one of the conditions for the release of a 1.3 billion dollars IMF loan tranche.

The bill, expected to be approved by the parliament later this month, gradually raises the retirement age of women and men to 65 (actually 58 and 60, respectively) and the number of days they have to work from 7,000 to 9,000.

Two hour strike

Turkish unions launched on Friday two hour warning strike to protest against the sought social security and general health insurance bill. The transportation, street cleaning, education and health services stopped during the strike.

No flights took-off for two hours; teachers didn't join classes; doctors didn't take care of patients except emergencies, agencies reported. Local news agencies also attended the strike with the official Anatolian Agency suspended work between 10.15 a.m. and 10.30 and the private ANKA only published the stories related to the two-hour strike.

Turkish television showed doctors and nurses joining the strike, and hospitals declining to provide services except in emergency cases. Hundreds of workers holding Turkish flags gathered in front of their work places in Ankara to chant slogans against the government and IMF. Workers said they wanted the social security reform to be abandoned completely.

The umbrella platform of Turkish unions, Emek Platform early this week decided to hold two hour warning strike on Friday and vowed to hold larger strike if their demands are not met.

The labor unions and the opposition parties criticize the reform saying that it raises the threshold for workers to reach retirement to a very high level of 9,000 days. But the government says the current retirement ages of 44 for women and 48 for men are not sustainable and the existing system encourages early retirement.

The bill creates a new fund where future severance payments will be transferred and the money accumulating here will be used in private pension funds, another issue that the unions object. Workers will be paid severance payments only in the case of death or retirement but not lay-offs. The reform says workers will be paid severance payments only in the case of death or retirement but not lay-offs, creating potential conflict with the labor groups.

Hürriyet
Last Mod: 16 Mart 2008, 14:05
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