Minimum wage rise is not enough for Greece's lowest-income workers, says GSEE

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The General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) said on Friday that rise in the monthly minimum wage by 9.4% as of April 1 "is far from the demands of the poorest of workers and does not allow them to cover basic living needs."

Greece's umbrella representative of private sector employees was commenting on the prime minister's announcement the same day that minimum wage would rise from 650 euros in 2019, when the current government came to power, to 780 euros as of April 1.

GSEE reiterated its position that the minimum wage should be at 60% of the median salary plus expected inflation, or 826 euros, and it called for a National General Collective Labor Agreement.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis chaired a meeting οn Friday at the Maximos Mansion and announced that from April 1, the minimum monthly wage will increase to 780 euros.

He pointed out that he has no illusions and knows that "this new increase obviously does not solve the problem. Certainly, however, it offers a very important relief and shows our intention to upgrade salaries, both in the public and in the private sector."

"So from April 1, it will reach 780 euros from 650 euros in 2019. Which means that since that time, almost three additional salaries have been added annually to the income of approximately 600,000 workers," the prime minister said.

"The new increase will obviously affect unemployment benefits and all the benefits associated with the minimum wage. The Minister of Labour will elaborate on all this in detail shortly.

"I have no illusions. I know, we know that in our country wages are still low, and they are further squeezed by imported inflation. It's something I hear all the time, especially from young people who are struggling to make ends meet.

"I want to emphasise that the final amount that has been agreed is at the upper limit of our capabilities. It is, however, within the capabilities of the businesses that - I want to remind - were so greatly supported by the Greek government during the pandemic.

"At the same time, the national economy remains in a strong growth momentum, unemployment is steadily declining, taxes are still being reduced. Now is therefore the time to support workers with a generous increase in the basic wage, because the dividend of growth must be reaped fairly by all."

For his part, Labour and Social Affairs Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said on Friday that "the increase in the minimum wage to 780 euros per month from April 1 is imposed by the increased needs of employees and is based on the momentum that the economy has built up over the last four years."

"It is a significant and fair increase, which takes into account, on the one hand, the debt to support employees, especially in conditions of increased imported inflation, and on the other hand, the capacity of businesses," he continued.

The minister was speaking at a press conference where he presented details of the government's decision to increase the minimum wage and daily wage to 780 euros and 34.84 euros, respectively, from April 1.

Hatzidakis underlined that the following factors were taken into account when determining the minimum wage: unemployment, which fell from 17.5% in 2019 to 10.8% in January, the improvement in competitiveness resulting from the increase in investments and exports, the recovery of the economy, which is expected to continue this year, the course of inflation, which, although decelerating, will remain at high levels and Greece's position in the European Union, based on GDP and the level of the minimum wage.

He noted, however, that unemployment does not fall automatically. "It fell from 17.5% to 10.8% because a series of political and economic conditions came together, namely government stability, seriousness and a positive climate in the economy. If these do not exist, unemployment will rise again," he stressed.

Hatzidakis pointed out that the raise will also lead to an increase in 19 benefits, including unemployment, maternity and others. The unemployment benefit will now reach 479 euros a month, he said.

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