February 28, 2018 / 3:26 PM / 2 years ago

Polish minister feels backlash after salary complaints

WARSAW, Feb 28 (Reuters) - Poland’s Deputy Prime Minister apologised on Wednesday for complaining that the 14,517 zloty ($4,246) he earned a month as a member of the previous government was not enough to feed his family, a comment that prompted a backlash on social media.

In an interview, Jaroslaw Gowin was questioned about monthly bonuses that ministers received in 2017, which Polish media have estimated at more than 5,000 zloty.

Justifying the extra payments, he told private broadcaster Radio Zet: “When I was a justice minister (in Donald Tusk’s cabinet from 2011-2013) and had three children to feed I sometimes struggled to make ends meet.”

The nationalist Law and Justice (PiS) party that heads the current government won the last national election in 2015 in large part on a promise to distribute the country’s wealth more equally.

Poland is one of Europe’s fastest growing economies but its per-capita gross national product still lags behind western European Union states.

The average gross monthly salary is 3,510 zloty ($1,027). But a typical worker’s net wage is far lower at around 1,500 zloty - still a world away from the German average of 3,911 euros gross.

In a posting on broadcaster TVN24’s website one user, Polak, said Gowin’s complaint was “detached from reality” and described his comments as embarrassing.

A second user, maroobit, said on the Wprost.pl site: “You’re shameless, all of you who finally get an access to money. You’re pathetic.”

Gowin, whose small Accord party is part of the PiS coalition, offered apologies for his comment, especially to “those who are struggling with real poverty.

“My intention was not to complain about my own situation, which is undoubtedly much better than that of millions of Poles,” he said in a Twitter posting.

Low Polish wages are a focal point in PiS’s strategy of resisting adoption of the euro, which all EU members are obliged join. The party’s official line is that Poland will become part of the euro zone once its wages match Germany’s.

$1 = 3.4187 zlotys Reporting by Marcin Goclowski; editing by John Stonestreet

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