Minimum Wage Directive improvements: the least working people deserve

Moves by European Parliament legislators Denis Radtke (EPP) and Agnes Jongerius (S&D) to improve the proposed Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages offer valuable changes for working people, especially the low paid, says the ETUC.

But ETUC Deputy General Secretary warned against any watering down of the proposals: 

"The lowest-paid suffered disproportionately during the last recession and are hardest hit in the Covid pandemic. Many of these workers were rightly recognised as essential when Covid struck  and thave continued to work under extremely difficult and stressful circumstances to keep our countries running. The amendments proposed by MEPs Radtke and Jongerius are the least that working people deserve.”

The improvements put to the Parliament’s Employment Committee, strongly supported by the ETUC, include:

  • Stating that collective bargaining involves trade unions and not just ‘workers organisations’ (that could include fake unions or representatives chosen by bosses). 
  • Giving trade unions a right to access workplaces.
  • Setting a threshold of decency below which no statutory minimum wages should be paid.
  • Ensuring that the award of public contracts is only to companies that respect the right of workers to join a union and collectively bargain.
  • Ensuring national plans for collective bargaining include action against union-busting by unscrupulous employers

While fully supporting these changes the European Trade Union Confederation says that these legal changes alone will not reverse the rising inequality in the distribution of wealth in recent years:

  • Today only 2 out of 5 workers across the European Union benefit from collectively bargained wages, the rest having no counterbalance to the power of their employers in setting wages.
  • Twenty four million workers across the EU are on minimum wages below a poverty line threshold of decency.
  • Wages increased less than labour productivity in 15 EU member states from 2010 to 2019.
  • Workers in two thirds of EU member states are receiving a smaller share of their country’s GDP than they were at the beginning of the decade. 

“The Directive on Adequate Minimum Wages, improved by the proposed amendments of the European Parliament, would make life more bearable for those on low wages” said ETUC Deputy General Secretary Esther Lynch “and slow the increase in inequality, but a lot more is needed to return the money appropriated in a decade of falling wages, precarious work and rising inequality.”

“Trade unions are watching how MEPs will vote in the next weeks and if they will support these essential improvements” added Esther Lynch, “and we call on MEPs and Ministers to take their responsibility to enable fair wages for working people. Supporting and improving these very reasonable targeted changes to the Directive is what taking responsibility means.

“I ask politicians to remember who are the ‘essential workers’ in the pandemic crisis that we have yet to escape from. It is not the rich and wealthy who are asked to put their health at risk, it is often low-paid working people struggling to make a living.”