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Thousands of EU staff strike over austerity

EU

The 3,500 staff working for the Council of the European Union, one of the bloc’s key institutions, stopped work Tuesday in protest at an EU austerity drive. Unions say staff faces a 60% drop in purchasing power over the next 15 years if the 27-nation bloc maintains its belt-tightening policies. They are also protesting an increase in the retirement age from 63 to 67. Proposals for the next almost trillion-euro 2014-2020 EU budget include a seven-billion cut for EU civil servants. The pay and other advantages enjoyed by Europe’s 55,000 staff are a constant source of controversy, the last being a claim by German daily Die Welt this year that 4,365 EU civil servants earn more than the chancellor - that is, €21,000 a month. The European Commission, whose staff was not on strike Tuesday, denied the claim, saying the top salary in Brussels has been pegged at €18,000 a month. The EU says office staff are paid between €2,600 to 4,400 a month, while experts receive between €4,400 and 18,400 monthly. But perks are substantial, with expat bonuses set at 16% of salary and €400 paid monthly for each child up until the age of 26. School fees are covered by the EU.

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