Greece will raise the minimum wage from April 1 for a third time, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Friday, as high inflation takes a toll on household incomes.
“I am under no illusions. I know that wages in our country are still low while being further squeezed by imported inflation,” Mitsotakis said after a meeting with Labor and Social Affairs Minister Kostis Hatzidakis, adding that the minimum basic wage will rise to 780 euros a month.
He said the 9.4 percent increase will benefit around 600,000 workers.
“The fresh increase will obviously not solve the problem. But it certainly offers significant relief and, above all, it underscores our intention to improve salaries in the public as well as the private sector,” he said.
Mitsotakis added that the final amount that has been agreed upon “is at the upper limit of our possibilities. It is, however, within the capabilities of the businesses that – I want to remind you – were supported by the Greek government during the pandemic.”
The Greek premier noted that as the economy remains on strong growth momentum, unemployment is steadily falling, and taxes are still being reduced, the time has come to support workers with yet another increase in the basic wage.
“The dividend of development must be reaped fairly by all” concluded Mitsotakis.
The announcement about raising 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,” the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) said on Friday.
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.
Rise in minimum wage as anger boils in Greece over rail disaster
The announcement of a rise in the minimum wage had been expected earlier, but the deadly train collision at Tempi intervened.
Mitsotakis, who is set to announce general elections to be held sometime in May, is under pressure as anger over the rail disaster is growing.
On Thursday thousands gathered in Athens and other cities in Greece to protest at the government’s ineffectiveness, and its cost in human life.
They blame Mitsotakis for the lack of safety measures in the railway system, and call the collision an accident waiting to happen. “It was not human error, it was a crime,” read a banner held by protesters rallying outside parliament in Athens. “Our dead, your profits,” read another one.
A series of recent opinion polls show that although his party, New Democracy, still leads, the gap with the main opposition SYRIZA has closed to between 3 and 4 percentage points.
However, polls also show that SYRIZA has not gained from public anger. There are growing indications that Greeks are turning their backs on traditional parties, including the New Democracy, SYRIZA, and socialist PASOK.
The parties who have governed Greece for decades and make up Greece’s political establishment are seen as responsible for the archaic railway system and their response to the tragedy.
Related: Train Disaster Derails Greece’s Political Establishment
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