Workers lackluster about minimum wage hike

'It's the least the gov't can do'

Workers in line to benefit from the new minimum wage hike dismissed their new salaries as "the least the government could do" on Wednesday. "So what? Finally we get a salary we can live on? With all the millionaires in Israel it would be an embarrassment if they didn't raise our wages," said Sami Faridyani, who works for minimum wage for a Beit Shemesh supermarket. On Monday, the Knesset passed the final vote of a law to gradually increase the national minimum wage from NIS 3,585 to NIS 4,600. The long-awaited increase was called a "day of celebration for a million workers" by Defense Minister Amir Peretz. "This is the first step in reducing social gaps, and it presents a landmark in the change of the government's world view," said Peretz. Among workers however, there was much grumbling over the slow pace of the increase. "The number of people becoming millionaires here is growing faster than we know where to put them and the government wants our thanks because they finally make our salaries livable," said Faridyani. "I don't know, it's the least they can do." On Tuesday, a report released by investment bank Merrill Lynch and consulting firm Capgemini showed that the number of Israeli millionaires grew at a rate nearly double that of the rest of the world in 2005. In Jerusalem's Mahane Yehuda market, many of the workers said they did not expect to see the raise in their salaries go into effect for a long time. "There is what the government announces and what actually happens," said one produce stocker. "They pass a law there and it is a long time coming till we see it here... when you take into account inflation, this raise barely brings us back to what we were making a few years ago." Further increases in the minimum wage are planned, according to the coalition agreement reached between Kadima and Labor. The first increase is set to go into effect July 1.