Public-sector unions threaten to protest if gov’t agreement fails

Budapest, November 19 (MTI) – Three Hungarian public-sector trade unions announced on Friday that they would stage a demonstration if negotiations with the government on recent tax measures fail to bring agreement.

Laszlo Varga, head of the Cooperation Forum of Trade Unions (SZEF), told a press conference that SZEF and the two other unions, the Association of Autonomous Trade Unions (ASZSZ) and the National Confederation of Trade Unions (MSZOSZ), reject the government’s accusations that the public sector is wasteful as a whole. He added that the newly-announced tax measures, a flat 16 percent personal income tax from 2011, and the 98 percent severance pay tax above a certain pay cap, were unfair.

    Jozsef Feher, deputy head of SZEF, said the 2011 budget will strike down hardest on the public sector. He added that austerity measures and staff layoffs started in 2006 have continued. Feher said the new tax regime will have adverse effects on 81 percent of public-sector employees.

    Janos Borsik, chairman of ASZSZ, said their member unions protest the planned 16 percent flat tax and the government’s move to “seize private pension fund savings”.

    Varga said the demonstration will only be held if no negotiation can be reached. However, this was not their aim. “We want to talk,” he said.

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