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Minimum wage earners get minimal raise in Turkey

ISTANBUL - Daily News with wires | 12/29/2010 12:00:00 AM |

Despite opposition from labor representatives, a tripartite commission in Ankara has announced the new minimum wage for 2011. The net monthly salary of a minimum wage earner will be 630 Turkish Liras, while the net minimum salary of a worker under the age of 16 will be 546.20 liras. Labor organizations criticize the government after the decision, while employers say the figure will decrease their competitiveness in global markets

A tripartite commission tasked with establishing Turkey’s minimum wage next year has announced it will raise the net monthly salary to 630 Turkish Liras ($403, or 307 euros) for those over 16 years old.

The decision of the commission, from which the labor representative at the body abstained, was made Tuesday evening and has been greeted with protest and criticism from various labor organizations.

The figure is applicable for the first half of 2011, after which it will be raised to 655.5 liras ($420, or 319.5 euros). The average annual increase will be 10.1 percent.

Those under the age of 16 will receive a minimum wage of 546.2 liras ($350, 266 euros) per month in the first half of the year. The amount will be increased to 572 liras ($366, or 279 euros) in the second half.

The commission, consisting of government, employer and employee representatives, made the decision even though the representative of Türk-İş, Turkey’s biggest labor confederation, opposed it. Ali Kemal Sayın, the government’s representative on the commission, told journalists after the meeting in the Labor Ministry building in Ankara that “if workers also joined in the decision, maybe the figure could have been more.”

10 hours of work for one kilo of meat
According to research by the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions, or DİSK, the monthly minimum wage rise of 25.6 Turkish Liras must be saved for two years to pay an average monthly rent. The labor union also said a minimum wage earner should work two hours to buy a kilogram of rice and 10 hours to buy a kilo of red meat.

The 10.1 percent annual rise in minimum wage corresponds to 0.85 liras per day, according to DİSK.

The monthly 25.6 liras added to the pocket of a minimum-wage earner can buy 185 grams of rice or 16 grams of baby food or 0.4 kilograms of bread per day. The extra money corresponds to 162 grams of poultry per day.

“Provided that the rent stays the same, the 25.6 liras per month would need to be saved for years to pay an average monthly rent of 487 liras,” the study said.

The prices and figures were taken from official data provided by the Turkish Statistical Institute.

With the new raise, a minimum wage earner would have to work 192 hours to pay an average rent, two hours to buy a kilogram of rice and 21 hours to buy baby food. To buy a pair of men’s shoes, the minimum wage earner should work 41 hours, according to the study. To go to a movie theater, he or she would have to work four hours.
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News

Sayın further said the figures were determined according to Article 55 of the Constitution, which says the minimum wage is set “in accordance with the living conditions of employees and the economic situation of the country.”

“We appreciate the understanding of the employer side, [as] we managed to climb to much higher levels than when we started,” Anatolia news agency quoted Sayın as saying. “We did not see the same understanding from the employee side. It was not possible to convince them to go under a certain level.”

Turkey’s new minimum wage of 307 euros compares both favorably and unfavorably with European nations. The minimum wage in Bulgaria is 123, in Romania 142 euros, in Poland 321 euros, in Czech Republic 302 euros, in Spain739 euros, in Greece863 euros, in Portugal 554 euros and in France 1,344 euros, according to Eurostat data.

[HH] Sacrifice of the employer

Ali Nafiz Konuk, employer representative to the commission and board member of the Turkish Confederation of Employers' Unions, or TİSK, said employers made a sacrifice with this amount. “We had not thought of [such a rise],” Konuk said. “But there are millions of workers on minimum wage, so we undertook this social responsibility. We [originally] targeted a rise in line with the predicted 2011 inflation.”

The Turkish Central Bank has set a consumer price inflation target of 5.5 percent for 2011.

Konuk said TİSK does not believe these wages would contribute to Turkish industry’s competitive power. “I hope we are wrong. Tough times are ahead,” he said.

In a statement, Türk-İş representative İsa Gök said the new wage would not provide a life that befits human honor.

“The minimum wage should be set by taking into account living conditions, official statistical data, the family of the worker and the lowest civil servant salary,” Gök said. “We have defended these opinions, but most of them were dismissed during the sitting of the commission. The minimum wage has once again been set by the government and the employers.”

[HH] Official data not taken into account

The wage should be assessed using “scientific, objective, dependable data and methods,” according to Gök. “Instead, it is becoming subject to bargaining.”

The labor representative noted that the Turkish Statistical Institute, or TurkStat, has set 900.9 liras the minimum monthly amount needed for one person to earn one’s keep. “The commission should take this figure, set by a government agency,” he said.

During the talks, Türk-İş requested that minimum wage be set by adding this figure 2010 target inflation and a “welfare share.”

A monthly salary of 630 liras “shows the attitude of the government and the employers toward workers,” Gök added.

Salim Uslu, the president of Hak-İş, a rival labor confederation considered close to the government, also criticized the new minimum wage. “In 2002, the gross minimum wage was 250 liras,” Uslu said. “By our calculations, this amount should be nearly 1,000 liras today.”

The Hak-İş president also said the minimum wage commission should be reorganized to make sure workers are represented properly.

The new minimum wage will also marginally affect the salaries of other workers and civil servants, as they receive a “minimum living discount” on monthly taxes. An unmarried worker or civil servant will pay 5 liras less tax each month, while a married worker or civil servant whose spouse is not working will see the discount increased from 65.6 liras to 71.7 liras. Parent employees will also receive various discounts on their taxes according to the number of children they have.

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