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News 13 Feb 15

Tax Hike Brings Thousands Onto Macedonia's Streets

Thousands of contract workers and casual employees protested in Skopje for a second time on Friday against a sharp rises in their taxes, from 10 to 35 per cent.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic
BIRN
Skopje

 

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

Translators, musicians, workers in the NGO sector, freelance journalists and many others supported by several workers’ unions and rights movements, protested on Friday in Skopje against a tax hike, which stepped into force since January, which they call a “state racket”.

"We will not give up until you scrap the law," protesters shouted during the march which started in front of parliament, passed in front of the Labour Ministry and continued to government house in central Skopje.

Workers held up banners reading “Workers’ rights”, “You will hear from us yet!”, "This is a class fight" and "Government Mafia and Extortionists".

The march ended close to the state university campus after which they rallied outside the university to express solidarity with protesting students, who on Wednesday occupied the complex and pronounced it an "autonomous territory".

The march ended close to the state university campus after which protesters rallied outside the university to express solidarity with protesting students | Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic

The students who are spending their nights at the university are protesting against the new Law on Higher Education, which introduces mandatory, external state-supervised exams, which students say curbs university autonomy.

"Our two causes are intertwined and your solidarity is highly appreciated," a student representative told the gathered workers.

The tax reform, which came into force at New Year, obliges workers on fixed-term contracts and casual workers to pay 35 per cent of their earnings for health and welfare, just as if they were fully employed.

The government insisted the reform would reduce unemployment and boost workers’ social security. The protesters say it as an attempt to take money from people who often earn only 200 to 400 euro a month and will make them even poorer.

Protesters say as many as 200,000 people in the country of 2.1 million could be directly affected by the change.

After the first protest in December, the government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski initially showed no signs of backing down.
 
However, in a bid to appease protesting contract workers, the ruling VMRO DPMNE party offered to pass some amendments to ease the tax hike, which they did this week.

Under the amendments passed this week, those in work who also earn from additional contracts are except from paying taxes on additional earnings if they do not exceed the monthly average wage of 340 euro.

Unemployed persons are exempt from paying additional taxes if their monthly earnings from contracts do not exceed the minimum monthly salary of some 150 euro.

However, the coalition of workers’ rights movements and unions remain dissatisfied, saying they want to see the law scrapped altogether.

Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic
Photo by: Sinisa Jakov Marusic



 

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