The EU could raise low pay, benefitting workers and families throughout Europe and beyond, says the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC).
In the run up to the World Day of Decent Work on October 7, the ETUC is highlighting
- Industries where some wages are far from decent;
- How wages would be improved if companies and other organisations were given legal responsibility to ensure that companies in the supply chain (from whom they buy products or services from) are legitimate and offer decent pay.
Examples of work that is far from decent include
- Workers in the Italian agro-food industry earning just €25 a day picking tomatoes in the sun for 12 hours;
- Lorry drivers working in France delivering for French companies, but sub-contracted from companies based in Eastern Europe, earning 40% of the salary earned by lorry drivers employed in France;
- Workers in Macedonia making shoes for EU brands earning 25% of a living wage;
- Workers hired in Romania, employed by Slovakian companies (with Slovakian contracts) and ’posted’ to work in the German meat industry, so employers pay less health, pension and other social contributions than in Germany;
- 1 in 3 crowd workers in the so-called ‘sharing economy’ in the Netherlands (doing work based on online platforms, often heralded as a golden future of work) earn less than €18,000 per year;
- McDonalds - offer their customers cage-free eggs but claim to be unable to ensure that their workers receive a living wage in their franchising system.
There are several solutions available to the EU and national Governments:
- Mandatory supply chain liability: the EU should pass a law making the main contractor liable for the wages and social contributions of subcontractors (if the subcontractor does not);
- EU public procurement legislation should require public bodies to respect collective agreements and ensure decent pay and conditions in companies they buy goods and services from;
- Franchises should be obliged to insist on decent pay and conditions not just the quality of the goods and services.
“The EU needs to deliver decent work and pay across Europe” said Esther Lynch, Confederal Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation.
“Voluntary schemes and agreements are not enough.”
“The days when companies made and sold their own products are disappearing. Today outsourcing, sub-contracting and franchising is increasingly common. It the cause of much misery at work. Long subcontracting chains destroy wages and conditions by lowering wages and conditions of workers at every step in the chain. In other cases, franchise agreements codify everything except the pay and conditions of workers leaving the workers vulnerable to a race to the bottom.
“Companies profiting from these arrangements cannot be allowed to simply wash their hands of responsibility for the workers involved. It is not good enough that Directors and those who preside over these arrangements pretend that they are unaware of the consequences.”