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Turkish opposition parties, labor unions dissatisfied with minimum wage increase

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Turkey’s opposition parties and representatives from labor unions have expressed dissatisfaction with a 55 percent increase in the country’s minimum wage for 2023, saying the new minimum wage lags behind meeting wage earners’ basic needs due to high inflation.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced the much-awaited decision on Thursday, a third major minimum wage hike in a year to try and combat a historic jump in consumer prices ahead of the 2023 elections.

Turkey’s working classes have been hit the hardest by an economic crisis that has seen the annual rate of inflation reach 85 percent. More than 40 percent of the country’s workforce earns the lowest income allowed by law.

On Thursday Erdoğan said the country would boost the monthly take-home pay to a minimum of 8,500 lira ($455).

The minimum wage stood at 2,826 lira in December 2021, which at the time was slightly less than $300.

It was raised to 4,253 lira in January and then to 5,500 in July.

Although the minimum wage hike was 55 percent, it fell short of pleasing opposition parties and some labor unions because the annual rate of inflation has surged past 85 percent.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu criticized the move on social media, saying the increase is below the inflation rate announced by the Turkish Statistical Institute (TurkStat) for food prices and accusing the government of robbing 33 million citizens, stating that it falls short of meeting what minimum wage earners deserve.

Felicity Party (SP) leader Temel Karamollaoğlu also criticized the hike on Twitter, saying the countdown to a more humane minimum wage has started, alluding to the looming 2023 elections.

Opposition Democracy and Progress (DEVA) Party leader Ali Babacan, a former finance minister, said in a video posted on social media that the minimum wage hike should have been at the annual inflation rate plus an amount necessary for the well-being of the citizens, urging the government to resign for their incompetence.

“You make our country pay for your poor economic management. The new minimum wage is far from being a panacea. Without fighting inflation, a wage increase will do nothing,” former Turkish prime minister and leader of the Gelecek [Future] Party Ahmet Davutoğlu tweeted.

“The announced minimum wage condemns workers to hunger and poverty. We will change this system of injustice, which exploits the sweat of working people, with a common struggle,” Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Co-chair Mithat Sancar tweeted.

Labor unions unhappy with minimum wage increase

Erdoğan announced the minimum wage with Minister of Labor and Social Security Vedat Bilgin on his right and Özgür Burak Akkol, president of the Turkish Confederation of Employers’ Associations (TİSK), which represents employers, on his left.

Ergün Atalay, head of the Confederation of Turkish Trade Unions (TÜRK-İŞ) had announced that their official offer for the minimum wage was 9,000 lira and that they would not sit down at the negotiating table if this figure was not accepted. Atalay did not attend Erdoğan’s press conference.

“The constitution stipulates that ‘the living conditions of workers must be taken into account when setting the minimum wage.’ However, the Turkish Statistical Institute has refrained from conducting a study on this issue,” Atalay said in a statement to Turkish media.

Confederation of Revolutionary Workers Unions (DİSK) Chairperson Arzu Çerkezoğlu also commented on the new minimum wage. “With the figure set, millions of workers and their families are clearly doomed to poverty,” she was quoted as saying by BBC’s Turkish edition.

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