Turkish minimum wage talks enter final round; workers demand $400 a month

Turkey’s government, employers and labour unions will hold a final meeting on the minimum wage for next year on Monday. A major union is demanding a net salary of more than 3,000 liras ($400) per month for the country’s lowest earners.

Turkish Family, Labour and Social Services Minister Zehra Zümrüt Selçuk will chair the meeting in Turkey’s capital Ankara, Hürriyet newspaper reported. With official annual inflation at 14 percent and the economy reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, union leaders are driving a hard bargain.  

“Employers and the government cannot propose anything below 3,000 liras,” said Ergün Atalay, head of union Türk-İş, which publishes regular reports on how the minimum wage fails to meet the basic living needs of Turkish workers.

The 15-member Minimum Wage Commission, which includes five representatives each from the government, employers and unions, first met to discuss wage levels on Dec. 4.

The minimum wage in Turkey is 2,324 liras per month after deductions.  

Turkish Treasury and Finance Minister Lütfi Elvan, appointed in early November, has pledged to work hard to minimise the impact of high inflation on the country’s citizens.

Annual inflation climbed to 14 percent in November from 11.9 percent in October, imposing further financial pressures on a population already hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Turkey agreed a 15 percent hike in the net minimum wage for 2020 in December last year, when inflation stood at 10.6 percent. That agreement came after the government lost control of Turkey’s largest cities of Istanbul and Ankara in local elections in 2019.

More than 7 million people in Turkey earn the minimum wage from a workforce of about 32 million.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is facing re-election in 2023.