Germany's SPD appeal to working class before election

State Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate Malu Dreyer of SPD speaks on stage next to German Social Democratic Party (SPD) candidate for chancellor Olaf Scholz during a party meeting in Berlin, Germany, May 9, 2021. REUTERS/Axel Schmidt/Pool

BERLIN (Reuters) - German Finance Minister Olaf Scholz vowed on Sunday to raise the minimum wage after national elections in September, hoping for support from about 10 million low-paid workers to help his Social Democrats (SPD) avoid a bruising third place.

Scholz made the promise in a speech to SPD delegates who voted for him as their centre-left party's candidate for chancellor.

His party is lagging both the Greens and Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives in polls and is forecast to suffer its worst ever election result.

"I will push for a minimum wage of 12 euros during my first year as chancellor," Scholz said. "This means a wage increase for some 10 million employees so they can at least afford a bit more."

The COVID-19 pandemic is expected to push up the proportion of people living below the poverty line in Germany. It stood at a record high of almost 16% at the end of 2019.

The SPD reluctantly joined a coalition with Merkel's conservative bloc after an election in 2017 despite stiff opposition from members who feared that a third alliance with Merkel would damage the party's working-class appeal.

As finance minister, Scholz drafted unprecedented rescue packages for the economy, which thanks to generous lifelines for businesses and freelancers, as well as a decision to keep factories open avoided mass layoffs and weathered the crisis better than neighbours such as Italy and France.

Some polls have put the ecologist Greens ahead of Merkel's conservatives, which are also set to suffer their worst-ever results on Sept. 26 at the hands of voters frustrated with a chaotic management of lockdowns and a slow start to vaccinations.

Other surveys have showed the two parties neck and neck.

The SPD, which are on 14-16% in polls, last year pushed for the national minimum wage to increase in four stages, reaching 10.45 euros per hour by mid 2022.

(Additional reporting by Holger Hansen; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

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