TODAY’S – Minimum wage set at $405 amid billion-dollar-palace debate

Minimum wage set at $405 amid billion-dollar-palace debateAmid continuing debates over the cost of a luxurious new presidential palace, the Turkish government on Tuesday announced a modest increase in the countryand#39s minimum wage.President Recep Tayyip ErdoIanand#39s presidential palace, which has more than 1,150 rooms, was built at a reported cost of about $1.

5 billion, though several analysts estimate a much higher building cost. Several opposition figures in Turkey and international observers have criticized ErdoIanand#39s palace for its lavishness.

Deciding on the monthly minimum wage for 2015 — a sensitive issue for Turkey, given recent shows of excess expenditure — the government said on Tuesday that the new minimum wage was set to increase from TL 891 to TL 949 ($405) a month for workers for the first six months of 2015, and to rise again in the second half of the year to TL 1,000.According to the Turkish Statistics Institute (TurkStat), a single worker has to earn TL 1,424 a month to meet essential needs.

This was the amount to which some labor unions demanded the government raise the minimum wage. Gold-plated glasses unveiled at a recent dinner hosted in the controversial new presidential palace by Emine ErdoIan, the countryand#39s first lady, are worth around $500 each, more than the monthly minimum wage in Turkey, the Turkish Union of Engineers and Architectsand#39 Chambers (TMMOB) asserted earlier this month.

The minimum wage raise also fails to account for high inflation. Recent figures from TurkStat put the 11-month inflation rate at 86 percent, but minimum wage earners were only granted a TL 58 wage increase after taxes, which does not meet the burden of the higher-than-expected inflation.

This also contradicts the ruling Justice and Development Partyand#39s (AK Party) age-old rhetoric of andldquowe didnand#39t let inflation crush minimum wage earnersandrdquo.Purchasing power has taken a nosedive in Turkey, as skyrocketing food prices have severely impacted inflation, bringing it to levels much higher than government estimates.

Likewise, basic consumption items like transportation, housing and education surged in price through 2014. The government is mulling over new tax hikes for 2015, a factor that will exacerbate the burden on an estimated 5 million minimum wage earners in Turkey.

Minister of Labor and Social Security Faruk elik announced on Tuesday in Ankara that the government had decided to raise the monthly minimum wage by 6 percent. The government agreed on the new minimum wage following a meeting held with the Minimum Wage Determination Commission, which comprises of representatives from labor and employer unions.

These unions have recently been criticized for becoming increasingly pro-government as they conceded to a number of government decisions that ignored workersand#39 calls for higher salaries.During the meeting, a group of Freedom and Development Party (HKP) members held a protest in front of the Ministry of Labor and Social Securityand#39s building, criticizing the low minimum wage in Turkey.

The HKP members said that the minimum wage is associated with poverty, hunger and misery in Turkey.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman