Minimum wage for 2009 is not satisfactory for unionist

· Economics, Politic, Society, Statistics

The Colombian government announced last December that it would establish the new minimum wage for workers at the same number of the 2008 inflation. According to DANE (the National Department of Statistics of Colombia), the 2008 inflation was 7.67%, so then, the salary will increase that level. According to the official decree, the Colombian workers start to receive 496,900 peso per month as minimum wage since 1rst January that is less than USD 250.

Unionists were not satisfied with the new set minimum salary and announced that they are going to demand it. By its part, the government said to the mass media that it is just, because it matches the national economical reality, according to the words of Minister Diego Palacio. The government said also that the workers have the right to demand the increase of the minimum wage, but it was made according to the national constitution and the law.

The discussion about the increase on the minimum wages for employees and workers in Colombia began at the end of 2008, but unionists and government could not reach an agreement. Then, the government decided that it would increase according to the 2008 inflation. Palacio, who is the Minister of Protection, said that the increase was made according to the national economical reality and the world financial crisis. He said also that Colombia will face a decline in exports to Venezuela, United States and Spain and that the country should prepare to those possible problems.

The unionists associations of Colombia, gathered in CGT (General Confederation of Workers), said that the new minimum wage was not constitutional and that they are going to demand it before the courts. Julio Roberto Gómez Esguerra, general secretary of CGT, concluded that the government can not fix the wages in a number inferior to the number of inflation. The government did not have in account the rules of the Constitutional Court to establish the new wages, said Gómez.

Gómez declared that in Colombia families under poverty spend 44% of their monthly salary in food. According to him, food inflation increased in the country 10%, while the government is increasing 7,67% only.

Other sectors of the Colombian society expressed that the increase in the wages for workers and employees does not fit the expectations. The opposition, leaded by Sen. Luis Carlos Avellaneda of Polo Democrático, concluded that the minimum wage in Colombia should be of about 666 thousand pesos (more than USD 300) and not 496 thousand as it was set.

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