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:
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.