ETUC reveals measures won by unions to protect jobs and wages across Europe

European workers affected by the coronavirus crisis will keep receiving up to 100% of their normal wages under protections won by trade unions.

ETUI research for the ETUC has found 18 EU countries, Norway and the UK have taken some measure to protect the jobs and wages of workers who have been temporarily laid off or had their hours reduced.  

In stark contrast, Croatia, which currently holds the EU Council Presidency, is proposing to suspend labour and social rights  – a move the ETUC condemns strongly in a letter to the country’s Prime Minister.

In many countries, trade unions have been negotiating with employers and national governments to put in place policies which will secure the short-term income and long-term livelihoods of workers:

  • Austria: Trade unions, employers and the government agreed a reduced hours work scheme which will see the lowest paid workers receive 90% of their normal wages. Middle earners will receive 85% and higher earners will receive 80%.
  • Netherlands: Picking up many of the trade unions’ proposals to preserve employees’ jobs and incomes, the Dutch government announced a three-month scheme which will see workers retain their full income while depending on the size of their loss of turnover companies receive up to 90% wage support from the state.  This scheme also applies to temporary and contract workers.
  • Denmark: Trade unions, employers and the government agreed a temporary wage subsidy scheme for companies affected by the crisis. The government will fund 75% of wages up to 23,000 DKK (aprox.3,000 EUR) if the company refrains from making workers redundant who retain 100% of their monthly wage.
  • Romania: Trade unions took part in a government working group which agreed workers will continue receiving two-thirds of their normal wage if they cannot work or temporarily laid off.
  • UK: Following negotiations with trade unions, the government agreed to reimburse 80% of wages up to a limit of £2,500 for employees who would otherwise be made redundant.

ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch said:

“Trade unions across Europe are ensuring people don’t have to choose between staying safe and paying the bills during the coronavirus crisis.

“The sensible wage and job protection policies put in place will also help ensure Europe doesn’t face the prospect of another devastating economic crisis on top of this health emergency.

“Governments yet to take action should follow the example set across Europe and sit down with trade unions agree measures that will protect the livelihoods of workers and public health.

“EU leaders must ensure the money is available to protect workers and the economy by creating low interest corona bonds and suspending its economic recommendations for member states.”

The full analysis on short-time working measures, along with other briefings on the impact of the crisis on workers, can be found here: