. Minimum Wage to be Determined by Workers’ Committees! | Association of International Workers' Solidarity

You are here

Minimum Wage to be Determined by Workers’ Committees!

Brother and sister workers, we are struggling to get by on a net minimum wage of 599 liras. Every year, in the run-up to December, the question of the amount of upcoming increase on minimum wage comes to the fore. Millions of workers and their families hope that there would be an adequate increase to meet decent standards. But the minimum wage never reaches even to a level which would be enough to meet the minimum needs of a working class family. According to recent figures, the adequate nutrition of a family of four requires 860 liras whereas the poverty line stays at 2.800 liras. We need to receive a wage above the poverty line to survive and raise our children healthily. But, is that possible to survive on a minimum wage of 599 liras even on a minimum standard of living?

It is us who work on minimum wages and live in hunger, poverty and misery. But it is not us, but the 15 members of the Commission of Fixing the Minimum Wages who determine the amount of minimum wage. 5 of those members are government delegates, another 5 are coming from the bosses’ union, TİSK, and the other 5 are bureaucrats from the biggest workers’ union, Türk-İş, who act as the ostensible representatives of workers. Last year, this Commission, which has no concern for the working class and its interests, increased the daily minimum wage by an amount worth a small loaf of bread. Is that possible that this Commission would determine such a minimum wage to be adequate for our needs?

It will be the same story this year unless we raise our voice and minimum wage will remain a wage of misery. And we will have to keep on fighting against hunger. To make the minimum wages meet our minimum needs, we need to get organised and fight all together, regardless of being a union member or not, or employed or unemployed

Bosses keep saying unblushingly that the minimum wage is high! Their organisations speak up to voice their interests especially in the run up to the meetings of the Commission every year. According to them, who think 599 liras is too much for us, a varying regional minimum wage policy must be followed. This means: the minimum wage will be 599 liras in İstanbul, but in cities such as Gaziantep or Adana it will be less. They say this would help them hire more workers! What they say is a big lie! Economy keeps growing, but unemployment does not go down. Why? Because their employment policy is to hire just one worker for a work which actually requires 3 workers. We workers already work for miserable wages. So, this economic growth has only one meaning for workers: miserable wages, long and intense working days and increasing job insecurity! Bosses’ capital and fortune keep expanding as they keep announcing record breaking profit rates. Even so, the minimum wage is declared to be high by them, despite the fact that it is not even worth to buy one of their shirts. It is no wonder that bosses have no moral compass!

The ruling AKP government is no exception, and, like others, it maintains the hostile attitude towards workers. Following the words of the bosses, AKP will not do more than a daily increase worth a small loaf of bread when it comes to minimum wages. Moreover, there are new attacks down the line. Government’s “National Employment Project” is to enforce a more flexible working regime and pave the way for the bosses to abuse more extensively the Unemployment Insurance Fund. Besides, the age limit for receiving full minimum wages will rise from 16 to 18. This means, hundreds of thousands of young workers will receive minimum wages at the lowest scale and get paid less than before. While attacking workers in this way, the AKP government on the other hand does not hesitate to allocate billions for armament and missile shield project. Let’s remember that the money spent for armament is coming from our pockets. Besides appropriating a quite big slice from minimum wages via taxes (gross minimum wage is 760 liras), they also get VAT and other additional taxes from almost everything we buy. There are also many other cutbacks that we do not even know namely. State revenues in the budged which are basically formed of our taxes are not spent to provide free education, health care, housing and transport.  

Brother and sister workers, determination of minimum wage is rightfully called “the biggest collective bargaining” as the millions of workers work on minimum wages. It is also the base rate of pay, making it a fundamental determinant in fixing other wages. For instance, the minimum wage is taken into consideration in a collective bargaining for workers in a unionised workplace. At present, majority of unionised workers get paid on minimum wages or just a bit more. So, this problem concerns not only the minimum wage workers, but the working class on the whole. It is of key importance to make millions of non-unionised workers join the fight and organise them along this way to stop minimum wages being miserable wages. Minimum wage must be determined by workers’ committees. Our fight must aim at forming workers’ committees where needs are decided through discussion and the minimum wage is determined according to these needs.

Unions do almost nothing other than calculating the poverty and hunger lines. Yet, they need to fulfil their natural duties so that all parts of the working class get decent wages. So, all workers, unionised sections being in the first place, need to be led towards a genuine struggle. As elementary workers’ organisations, unions must call on all sections of our class, employed/unemployed, unionised/non-unionised, for struggle, and mobilise them, to raise the minimum wage from a level of misery to a decent level. Brother and sister workers, if we want a better minimum wage to meet our minimum needs, we have to do our part and seek our rights. Nobody other than ourselves can bring about a serious change. Workers can attain their demands only if they get united and fight in an organised manner. 

15 December 2010