The Spanish government has decided to freeze the minimum wage in 2014, as it did in 2012.
Workers surviving on Spain’s minimum wage - less than 650 euros a month - continue to be the ones suffering most from the crisis and its corresponding cuts. In the last four years they have seen their spending power reduced by 5.5 per cent and next year paying their bills will be no easier. The Spanish government has decided to freeze the minimum wage in 2014, as it did in 2012, while last year an increase of 0.6 per cent was applied. The decision has been heavily criticised by trade unions, consumer associations and opposition groups.
So how easy is it to survive on a grand total of 645.30 euros a month? In practice the amount barely stretches to cover basic household expenses: mortgage repayments or rent; water and electricity.
Taking average expenses as a guide - 430 euros mortgage or rent, 15 euros water and 77 euros electricity - a worker on the minimum wage would be left with no more than 120 euros to cover other necessities - food, clothing, telephone or transport - until the end of the month. And these calculations do not include taxes or the fact that the worker may have a family to support.
Trade unions, consumer associations and labour market experts continue to insist on the need to increase the minimum wage to bring it in line with the limits established by the majority of European countries.
Spain’s minimum is among the lowest in the EU, ahead only of Greece and Portugal. The secretary of the union Comisiones Obreras for the province of Malaga, Antonio Herrera, describes the decision to freeze the wage in 2014 as “outrageous” and warns that this will not only affect those already on the minimum wage, but also workers in firms where the collective labour deals have been annulled due to the labour reform. “If the agreement expires, having gone for more than a year without renewal, the firm could impose the minimum wage,” he explained.
Speaking on behalf of the Consumers Union, Jesús Burgos said the measure will take its toll on spending. “Everything is going up: electricity, water, taxes... while salaries are falling, he said.
The president of the consumers association Facua, Lola García, added her concern at the “process of impoverishment” suffered by the “working class”.
The secretary general of PSOE (socialist party) in Malaga, Miguel Ángel Heredia, said last week in a statement that the government “continues to punish those who are worst off” and stated that in Spain “households of more than one member which receive the minimum wage are already below the poverty line”. According to his estimations “freezing the minimum wage means that 180,000 people in Malaga will lose spending power”, stating that the PP “has decided that the cost of beating the crisis is the impoverishment of the workers, middle classes and pensioners”.