The EU minimum wage needs red lines instead of non-binding criteria

Today, the EU Commission presented its key points for a planned EU minimum wage directive. Özlem Alev Demirel, member of the Committee for Employment and Social Affairs (EMPL) and social and labour market spokesperson for DIE LINKE in the European Parliament, comments:

“The decisive factor in the fight against poverty wages is how high the minimum wage limit is set in an EU country. There must be clear criteria for this, which cannot be undercut in any Member State. However, this is exactly where today’s proposal of the EU Commission fails. Although the initiative contains reasonable criteria that have to be used to set minimum wages in the Member States, they remain too vague. The Commission should have anchored clear minimum conditions that are unambiguous and open at the top, but draw a clear red line at the bottom. This is what DIE LINKE is fighting for in the European Parliament. Vague definitions do not help anybody. We therefore support the demands of the European Trade Union Confederation ETUC for a double limit for minimum wages in the EU, which, depending on the situation in the Member States, may only be above the 60 percent median wage (Kaitz index) and 50 percent of the average wage. Because where the median wage in Member States is too low, a second official limit is needed. With the Kaitz index alone, the minimum wage in Germany should have been around twelve Euros for several years already. This double limit would lead to an increase of the minimum wage in virtually all Member States and that is sorely necessary. „

“I welcome, that the proposal contains key points to strengthen collective bargaining. Because the skepticism of many Scandinavian trade unions towards an EU initiative is not unfounded with regard to EU decisions in the past. So far, the EU had made a clearly negative contribution to wage developments in Europe with a policy of deregulation and privatization. The competition on the European single market at the beginning of the 2000’s massively increased the pressure on wages. In many Member States, the coverage has decreased. Struggles over occupational safety, good working conditions and rising wages were made more difficult and the real minimum wage remained too low. One out of ten employees in the EU is currently at risk of poverty and cannot make a living from his or her work, especially if one has to care for a family. In order to break this trend, these issues must now be discussed more intensively on EU level. The fact that the initiative was started is the result of the resentment of significant parts of European societies and trade unions about these developments.“

“We as the Left have also campaigned for an EU minimum wage initiative. One thing is clear: the EU Commission itself is not entitled to make a wage policy, this is subject to the collective bargaining autonomy. The Commission only needs to anchor the lower limit for minimum wages so that the downward spiral and negative development is stopped and so that the EU institutions can no longer question collective agreements and minimum wages. I support the reference to the fact that in Member States in which the collective bargaining coverage covers less than 70 percent of employees, an action plan to strengthen collective bargaining coverage must be drawn up. Because it cannot be tolerated, that in 14 EU Member States only less than half of the employees are covered by a collective agreement. The fact that collective bargaining coverage should, according to the Commission’s proposal, be increased at least in particularly precarious areas is a step in the right direction.“

“The Left will continue to fight in the Parliament to ensure that this tiny plant is not getting scrunched by the influence of employer-related lobby groups and certain Member States. If the EU Commission now wants to make a contribution to better and higher wages, it can count on our support. In the case of proposals for stagnation in wage developments or even for a negative spiral, we will take decisive action against it. We will consistently reject all measures that increase the pressure on wages and collective agreements through the back door.“

Please find here our study „Between Poverty Wages and Living Wages – Minimum Wage Regimes in the EU“.