European minimum wage initiative – Consultation is underway!

15 Jan 2020

 

On 14 January, the European Commission launched First phase consultation of Social Partners on a possible action addressing the challenges related to fair minimum wages. While the ETF strongly believes that workers of Europe need a pay rise, we don’t support simplistic approaches and half-baked solutions that could endanger the autonomy of social partners around the continent. A simple prescriptive mechanism cannot solve wage stagnation – instead, we need to address the core causes of it, such as precarious work, anti-union measures, digitalisation, and austerity.

 

The ETF and its members welcome the fact that the new Commission included the need to raise wages and act against in-work poverty among its priorities. In what way the Commission will act on this commitment, however, remains unclear, as the current proposal lacks ambition and doesn’t delve into details of specific policies, nor does it give enough attention to collective bargaining as a tool to increase wages. The proposal fails to specify what measures would be introduced as part of the minimum wage initiative to ensure that the rights to organise and to collective bargaining are protected. Wage-setting mechanisms and industrial systems in Europe are highly diverse and should be respected as such – the autonomy and role of social partners need to be protected. No one-size-fits-all solutions will work in the European context and are likely to be resisted.

There is also little mention of issues affecting transport workers, such as social and wage dumping especially for mobile or cross-border workers. The Commission needs to put more focus on upward convergence to make sure the proposal is aimed at decreasing wage inequality in Europe.

 

The ETF believes that an overarching policy for collective bargaining and minimum wages needs to take into account the complexity of reasons for wage stagnation, and include:

  • Economic policies that promote collective bargaining at a national and sectoral level, rather than pushing for decentralised forms of collective bargaining;
  • Policies and legislation aimed at establishing a social pillar to support the internal market, to deter forms of social and wage dumping and create a fair labour market in the EU. This should include a strong chapter to protect mobile and cross-border workers;
  • Concrete measures to deter anti-union legislation across the EU as well as anti-union behaviour at any level;
  • Measures against bogus self-employment and any other form of precarious work, as this is an obstacle to a high collective bargaining coverage;
  • Recognition of platform economy companies as employers and their employees as workers, no matter what the nature of their cooperation is;
  • Conditionality clause on the need to respect the result of collective bargaining in public procurement, concessions, tendering, allocation of public funds and other,
  • Increase of the EU budget for social partners’ capacity building.

 

Any successful proposal on increasing wages in Europe will need to be fair to its core, by ensuring better wages for workers of Europe, as well as recognise, protect and strengthen collective bargaining systems.

 

The ETF will consult with its affiliates in the coming days and make sure that their voices are heard throughout the consultation process.

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