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    Turk unions slam Gul's approval of social security bill

    Hurriyet English with wires
    08.05.2008 - 09:54 | Son Güncelleme:

    Turkey's leading labor unions stiffened their criticism Thursday against the IMF-sought social security reform as the President approved the bill, that raises the retirement age to 65. Turkish President Abdullah Gul approved two key bills. (UPDATED)

    Turkish unions oppose the new social security law and threatened to hold a wider strike, as the leftist opposition party CHP readies to ask the Constitutional Court to annul the law.   

    The Confederation of Public Sector Unions (KESK) Chairman Ismail Hakki Tombul said in a written statement Thursday the approval of an amendment, vetoed by the previous president and cancelled by the Constitutional Court respectively, without question by Gul has dimmed the respectability and the neutrality of the president.

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

    "The presidency is not a notary public that approves all decisions of the political power, instead it must be an office which protects people's interests," Tombul said.

    The largest union Turkish Confederation of Labor (Turk-Is) welcomed the CHP's decision to challenge the bill in the court in a written statement, and added it will sensitively monitor the Constitutional Court process.

    The law raises the retirement age to 65 for both women and men by 2048. The retirement age was previously 58 for women and 60 for men. The law also increases the number of work days required to work to be eligible for retirement from 7,000 to 7,200.

     

    APPROVAL OF 301

    Gul also approved the amendment to the controversial Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code on Wednesday.

    Under the law to amend Article 301, passed last month, those who openly insult the Turkish nation, the state, parliament, legal bodies, the government, the military or police shall be sentenced to a prison term of up to 2 years, and criticism will not be a crime. Also the new law makes it a crime to insult the Turkish nation, rather than Turkishness and the justice minister's permission will be required to open a case.

    The European Union has been calling on Ankara to amend Article 301, which has been the basis for charges against Turkish writers and journalists including Hrant Dink, Elif Safak and Orhan Pamuk. But some European officials say the amendment fell short of expectations. 

    Gul's decisions to approve for both reforms were published in the Official Gazette and took effect on Thursday.

     

    Photo: AFP

     

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