By Kyriacos Kiliaris
The Turkish Cypriot Social Security and Labour office has announced that the minimum wage in the north will rise from 2,020 Turkish Lira to 2,175 (€524), amid heavy criticism that the increase is not enough.
Unions in the north are in uproar over the 155 TL increase, as they are also claiming that the “minimum wage does not comply with the relative minimum wage regulation in the north”.
They are protesting the fact that the minimum wage is set according to the fluctuations in the cost of living, whereas regulations state that the minimum wage should be set in a way to meet the needs of a four-member family.
The minimum wage in the north is far from complying with the above. After taxes, a worker on a minimum wage is left with the equivalent of €459, with rents starting from €220. If one adds electricity and water bills and food expenses, they are left with a very dark picture.
Murat Kanatli, the head of the New Cyprus Party (YKP) in the north, told the Cyprus Weekly that the minimum wage in the north is below the hunger line, which is determined by an Index calculating the cost of living.
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Kanatli said a worker on minimum wage is left with a net total of 1,892 TL.
“If we divide this amount by 30 days, we see that a worker in the north has just 63 TL (€15) at his disposal to provide the essentials for his family, including, amongst other things, housing and clothing,” said Kanatli.
He said that the minimum wage criteria have to be reviewed and called on the authorities to set the minimum wage to a humane standard.
Arslan Bicakli, the head of the Turkish Cypriot Workers Union (Turk-Sen) called the minimum wage a poverty wage.
He dubbed the rise in the minimum wage “insignificant”, and said that “what workers need is a minimum wage with which they can provide their family with a decent living”.
Meanwhile, he added that some unions are sceptical about challenging the minimum wage on a legal level, as the raise may be delayed, putting more stress on workers.
Hasan Felek, the head of Dev-Is, another Turkish Cypriot union, said that workers faced the same scenario every year. He said authorities were “essentially mocking workers by setting the minimum wage so low”.
“The only way out of this is for authorities to pave the way for the syndication of the private sector and the signing of collective agreements with the employers,” argued Felek.