Colombia’s minimum wage rises 4% despite union objections

Colombians going to work in 2013 found themselves earning 4.02% more than last year – but trade unions are not happy.

After employers and unions again failed to reach an agreement on the country’s wage rise, the government introduced the new minimum wage level by presidential decree. The minimum wage in Colombia is now $333 (589,500 pesos) per month.

The Colombian constitution demands consultation with both employers and trade unions on the minimum wage level, which in Colombia has a constitutional role and is also used to set court fines, but like in previous years, the negotiators could not reach agreement.

The government claims that 4.02% represents a real terms wage increase, since inflation in 2012 is expected to be 2.65%. But unions, who walked out of talks in December, called the rise “miserable” and said that along with tax changes introduced this year it will result in increasing inequality in Colombia.

“An increase of 760 pesos [43 cents] a day is an insult to the working class of the country, while the wealthy are given a $3.8 billion tax exemption,” said Domingo Tovar, president of the trade union body The United Workers of Colombia (CUT). He also called for unions may strike over the government’s policies.

Meanwhile employers, who had initially asked for an increase of 3.5%, said that the fall in GDP growth in 2012 to only 2.1% demanded caution in increasing wages.

Employers claimed that higher increases would only push more Colombians into the informal economy. According to official figures, 1.12 million people receive the official minimum wage, while 11.41 million – 58% of the working population – have a monthly income at or below the minimum wage level.

Last year, minimum wage increased by 5.8%.

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