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Politics

Greek Workers Union Complains Minimum Wage Hike Not Enough

ATHENS – A 9.4 percent raise in the minimum wage in Greece weeks ahead of elections wasn’t high enough to deal with inflation and rising costs, the General Confederation of workers of Greece (GSEE) said.

The union said the level announced by Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis whose government is reeling in the aftermath of the deaths of 57 people in a head-on collision “is far from the demands of the poorest of workers and does not allow them to cover basic living needs,” reported the state-run Athens-Macedonia News Agency AMNA.

It was the second time that the New Democracy government raised the minimum wage that was held down since 2010 on demands of international creditors putting up 326 billion euros ($351.28) in three bailout loans.

That will bring the wage from 650 euros ($700) in 2019 before Mitsotakis took power to 780 euros ($840) but much of that has been eaten up by inflation that saw prices soar for everything from energy to food.

GSEE said that the minimum wage should be at 60% of the median salary plus expected inflation, or 826 euros ($890) and called for a National General Collective Labor Agreement, the news report also said.

Facing a tough re-election battle and under fire for the train tragedy and a surveillance scandal, Mitsotakis said after a meeting of his Cabinet 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.”

He added that, “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.”

He said the raise was the most he could do under a current budget despite almost 6 percent growth in 2019 during the waning COVID-19 pandemic and near-level records of tourism, with another big year expected in 2023.

Labour and Social Affairs Minister Kostis Hatzidakis said, “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.”

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