‘That It?’ Shrug Peru’s Workers on $180 National Holiday Bonus

Peruvian workers will receive a bonus worth as much as two weeks’ pay to coincide with its national independence celebrations at the end of the month, the labour ministry said today.

The government said it will give public servants 200 soles, in addition to 300 soles paid to private workers by their employers, ahead of the 193rd Fiestas Patrias celebration of independence from the Spanish.

But workers said the giveaway  –which has happened in previous years– was insufficient, and suspected the government may not honour its promise.

“It’s bad, we should get more,” said a parking attendant working at a nearby market in the Miraflores suburb of Lima who wished to remain anonymous. “We have more costs, we want to eat better and clothe our children for the national holiday.”

The basic salary is about 900 soles per month for public workers, who receive few extra benefits. A 2010 national household survey said there were 1.35 million public servants, from judges to street cleaners, though experts say it’s a gross underestimate, owing to Peru’s developing public administration.

“Something is better than nothing, but it’s very low,” said fruit vendor Felix Rodilla Ortiz.

The average monthly wage between June and August last year was 1,394 soles for workers in the metropolitan area of the capital, Lima, according to the national statistics agency. The average in the rest of the country of 30 million was 951 soles.

“I have heard about the news, though I’ll believe it when the money’s in my hand,” said a neighbourhood patrol guard, who said the terms of his contract prevented him from saying more.

“With the cost of living as it is, it won’t make a huge difference, it should be more,” said Oscar Ballivar, a security guard employed by a private construction firm who makes $2,360 a month.

Peru premier, Ollanta Humala walking in Lima's main square on July 28. 2012, after taking part in mass (photo: Presidencia de Peru)
Peru premier, Ollanta Humala walking in Lima’s main square on July 28. 2012, after taking part in mass (photo: Presidencia de Peru)

Inflation has accelerated in four of the five past months in Peru to 3.56 percent in May from 3.52 percent in April, according to Bloomberg. The central bank targets inflation in a range of 1 percent to 3 percent.

“The state’s doing something good for all the public workers… and the congressmen should lower their salary.”

July 28 is the actual day of independence. The day begins with a 21 cannon salute in Lima, followed by a Te Deum mass by the Archbishop of Lima. The President of Peru attends the mass, after which he gives his official address to the nation.

Towns all over the country join the jamboree with alcohol and fireworks in no short supply.

Curiously, flying the Peruvian national flag outside of one’s house is compulsory over the celebrations that take place on the 28th and 29th of July. Local authorities said in 2011 they would hand out fines between 54 and 1800 soles.

A Minister of Work and Employment Promotion spokesperson said the money would help drive the economy through workers’ additional spending.

“I hope that they know to spend it well on something of benefit for them and their families,” said Ana Jara in a television interview.

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