Commission wants ‘fair’ minimum wages in the EU



Brussels

From our correspondent

At € 2,142 per month, the Luxembourg minimum wage is the highest in the entire European Union (EU). At the bottom of the table, Bulgaria only guarantees a minimum wage of € 312 per month, which is almost seven times less. To bridge this chasm, the European Commission put on the table, Wednesday, October 28, a proposal for a directive which aims to guarantee minimum wages “Just” throughout the European Union.

Please note, this is not about introducing a European minimum wage common to all Member States. The Commission does not have that competence and defends itself against any interference in domestic decisions. On the other hand, nothing prevents the European executive from working in favor of the establishment of a minimum wage “Fair” everywhere on the Old Continent, by framing the fixing of national floors. This is the path chosen by the Commission, convinced that its text will help equalize living conditions in different countries. For the employment commissioner, Nicolas Schmit, “People who have jobs shouldn’t have a hard time making ends meet.”

Concretely, the draft directive only sets out the criteria that must be put in place in the Member States in order to be able to verify that the legal minimum wage levels are indeed adequate and allow a decent standard of living for all workers. In particular, the Commission highlights the so-called “Kaitz” index, which compares the minimum wage to the median wage – the level of remuneration which separates a workforce of employees into two halves – or to the average wage. The Commission notes that at present “ in almost all states », The national minimum wages are too low because they are less than 60% of the gross median wage and / or 50% of the gross average wage.

The European Parliament had recommended the establishment “Wage floors (…) with the aim of progressively reaching at least 60% of the average salary at national level ”. The Commission has not reached a quantitative conclusion, but expects States to rethink the amounts upwards and adopt measures to increase the capacity of the social partners to take part in collective bargaining on wage setting .

The idea of ​​moving towards greater pay equity is not new. At the head of the Commission from 2014 to 2019, the Luxembourger Jean-Claude Juncker had already defended it. The current president of the institution, the German Ursula von der Leyen, took it over from the start of her mandate. In the summer of 2019, during her “operation seduction” in front of the European Parliament, she already promised a “Fair minimum wage (in order to) ensure a decent standard of living whatever the place of work”. By now giving substance to this promise, the former Minister of Labor and Social Affairs across the Rhine hopes to mark with his foot the construction of a so-called Europe. “Social”. For his part, in his manifesto “ for a European Renaissance », President Emmanuel Macron also pleaded for a “European minimum wage, adapted to each country and discussed each year collectively”.

While some countries, like France, believe that the Commission is moving in the right direction, others are more skeptical. In eastern Europe, the capitals fear losing competitiveness compared to their western neighbors if they have to increase their minimum wage. And in the six countries (Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Austria, Italy and Cyprus) where the latter is not set at the national level, but where collective agreements establish minimum wages for certain branches, the “Desire to protect its system from interference from the EU” is marked, note Claire Dhéret and Mihai Palimariciuc, in a study by the European Policy Center (EPC) think tank. “Sweden and Denmark are the leading figures of this resistance”, add the researchers.

Over the next few months, the States will negotiate this Commission project with the European Parliament. “The proposal does not go far enough because, as it stands, workers can still be legally paid two euros an hour! In other words, the measures envisaged are far from putting an end to competition between workers or curbing the problem of the working poor. “, Ecologist MEP Mounir Satouri is alarmed. The talks therefore promise to be tricky.

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