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Greek PM announces minimum pay rise as elections loom

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Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras reacts as he attends a cabinet meeting at the parliament in Athens, on January 28, 2019. – Greece’s debt agency said on January 28, 2019 it had begun a process for the country’s first bond issue — a five-year sale — since exiting the last bailout. The agency said the bond, carrying an April 2024 maturity, would be offered to investors “in the near future”. (Photo by ANGELOS TZORTZINIS / AFP)

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras on Monday announced an 11-percent rise in the minimum wage, the first after a decade of austerity and months ahead of legislative elections.

Tsipras, whose party is trailing in opinion polls, said the minimum wage would increase from 586 euros ($668) to 650 euros from February.

“Crushing workers is not the way to sustain growth and boost the economy,” he told the cabinet. “On the contrary, it’s a proven recipe for bankruptcy.”

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Nearly 900,000 people would benefit from the move, either directly or indirectly, as the change would also affect unemployment benefits, he added. The benefit is calculated from a percentage of the minimum wage.

It was a conservative-led government that slashed the minimum wage by 22 percent in 2012, under pressure from Greece’s EU-IMF creditors at the height of the financial crisis.

But Tsipras, with his leftist Syriza party trailing in polls some 10 points behind conservative rivals New Democracy, is in a race to improve his ratings.

Elections in Greece are not scheduled before October but there is speculation they could be held in May — coinciding with local and European parliament elections — or even sooner.

The 44-year-old prime minister heads a minority government after his nationalist coalition allies defected this month over their opposition to the historic name-change deal with neighbouring Macedonia.


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