After years of stagnation, Europe is suddenly rushing towards a legal minimum wage that applies across Europe – but varies in rise from country to country. Thanks in part to President Macron, who absolutely wants a European deal ahead of the French presidential elections in April, minimum wage earners in the Netherlands would also get more than €3 an hour if it were up to Parliament.
The ambassadors of the 27 member states reached a common negotiating position yesterday, the European Parliament today. If the EU’s 27 social affairs ministers follow their ambassadors on December 6, the triumvirate could start on December 7: the usual consultation between the commission, parliament and member states.
“The agreement in just three months is fast, but it’s also not a problem.” rocket science“You either do it or you don’t,” says Agnes Jongerius (PvdA), one of Parliament’s negotiators. And then, of course, we must agree on a minimum wage level. There, the parliament is somewhat more ambitious than the member states.”
Parliament, with the warm breath of the European trade union movement in its necks, has three principles: the minimum wage must be 50% of the average gross wage, 60% of the median wage (half earns more, half less) and then – as he said Jongerius – “You should also be able to fill a decent shopping cart with it in every country; preferably with some gas inside.
Parliament borrows the first two conditions from the ILO, the ILO, and the third condition added itself. For the Netherlands, Jongerius reaches a minimum gross wage of €14. Now that’s still €10.80 (with 36 working hours per week) or €10.24 (with 38 working hours per week). In addition to the Netherlands, there are 22 other countries below the minimum wage calculated in this way.
After 45 difficult rounds of negotiations, Jungerius and her German colleague Dennis Radtke (Christian Democrat) had already reached an agreement in Parliament on November 11, but soon thereafter there was a hitch: the Swedish and Danish MEPs withdrew their support. “In these two countries, everything is arranged by the employers and the employees themselves, and the government is not involved. Not having negotiations, not collective labor agreements, not relating to working conditions or social security or the labor inspectorate,” Jongerius says.
They are in fact allergic to government interference, due to a shock that is now ten years old. Then a construction company from Estonia began building a school in Sweden, but because it did not want to pay Sweden’s wages, the trade union movement called a strike, which was later banned by the European Court. And now we still enforce the law from Europe.”
Danes and Swedes are already allergic to government interference, due to a shock that is now ten years old
The solution that Jungerius does not see as a file Withdraw (Exception): Swedes and Danes also get the minimum wage, but the supervision remains with the social partners. As a result, workers in 25 countries will soon be able to file complaints about their wages and not in two countries, but that was the price apparently.
And the “liberation” of his fellow deputies continued until just before the vote this morning, but the majority was large (443 to 192), according to relieved Jongerius. When asked if she wanted to kill a union leader for the first time in her life, she burst out laughing: “No, I did that in a previous life (she was the head of the FNV – editor).
Raise the flag with caution
The European union movement, which has lobbied hard, is waving warily with the flag, in part because Parliament wants to arrange a lump sum so that at least 80 per cent of employees in each country will soon be covered by a collective labor agreement. This is important because the countries with the fewest collective labor agreements have the worst wages. These are now so low in many member states that as many as 22 million minimum wage earners are on the brink of poverty, according to the trade union organization Etuc, which represents 45 million workers in 39 European countries.
It’s also often about people who have a lot to choose from in a year and a half, says eminent lady Esther Lynch: health care workers, cleaners, store clerks. Seven out of ten find it difficult to make ends meet. After long shifts, they return home to cold houses because they cannot afford the energy prices. They eat less and are of poor quality. And they owe to pay the rent. This is no way to thank workers who play an essential role in society for their efforts.”
Fortunately, the tide is turning, Jongerius points out, also in member states and with regard to collective agreements and minimum wages. Under the previous crisis, it was: reducing the minimum wage, getting rid of sectoral collective agreements. Now we’re really working with a different recipe book. “
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