Labour Minister Zeta Emilianidou made it clear on Friday that it was not the government’s intention to cut the minimum wage, in the wake of a public discussion prompted by a statement of the general-secretary of the Cyprus Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KEVE) that the minimum wage should be reduced by 20 per cent.
“Despite the great pressure on the labour market because of the economic crisis and unemployment in previous years, the government has ensured and maintained the level of the minimum wage at €870 on recruitment and €924 after a six month period at the same employer,” a written statement from the minister said.
“Consequently, with the country`s exit from the memorandum, the return to growth and the significant reduction of unemployment, it has not been raised nor has it been discussed any matter relating to a reduction of the minimum wage, nor is there any such intention,” she said.
SEK and PEO, the two largest unions in Cyprus, have also expressed their disagreement with the position of KEVE, noting that the economy was recovering.
“It is pointless to put forward for discussion the minimum wage given the current economic conditions,” Andreas Matsas, SEK Secretary General, told the Cyprus News Agency, adding that what needed to be done was to make sure that all employers pay the minimum wage as set by the decree of the minister of labour for specific occupations.
These are; shop assistants, nurses’ assistants, clerks, hairdressers, and nursery assistants. For asylum seekers working in the agricultural sector, the minimum monthly wage is €425 with accommodation and food provided.
PEO Secretary General Pambis Kyritsis, speaking to CNA said that as the economy was recording positive growth rates and statements such as those by the KEVE general-secretary were provocative.
“All the evidence suggests that it is quite rational and justified for the workers to demand improvement in their living standards,” he noted.
“A decision to reduce the minimum wage would signal a general reduction in wages in the private sector,” he added.
KEVE links the reduction of the minimum salary to the economy`s competitiveness.
Marios Tsiakkis, the general-secretary of the chamber, told the CNA that Cyprus has a minimum salary higher than its competitors, such as Greece, Italy, Romania and Bulgaria.
“We believe that the minimum wage is high. Which affects the competitiveness,” he said.
Other governments have maintained that the minimum wage should be at 50 per cent of the average national wage, he explained, adding that according to data from the ministry of finance in 2014 the average national wage in Cyprus was €1,400 a month, and based on this the minimum wage should be reduced to €700.