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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.”

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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