The EU has been trying to drive the idea of implementing an EU-wide minimum wage for some time now. However, the proposals have been met with criticism and opposition from trade unionists in some European countries.
Ms Von der Leyen said the changes could stop what the EU calls the “brain drain” from eastern to western Europe. In addition, it could result in fewer people moving between countries, as there would be far less incentive to do so.
The proposals wouldn’t mean setting a minimum salary, however. It would mean new rules that would dictate what proportion of living costs the minimum wage would need to be in each country.
Among those opposing the idea is the Portuguese trade union, the CGTP. The organisation has spoken out against the proposals, describing them as a “trap” that could be harmful to workers.
At the moment, Portugal’s national minimum wage is high in relation to its median income and poverty threshold. The trade union argues that by bringing in new EU criteria could be used to lower the country’s minimum wage in the future.
As well as this, trade unionists from Sweden and Denmark have been critical of the idea. As these are high-wage economies, there isn’t a minimum wage. However, collective bargaining is commonly used to set wages – employers tend to set wage floors through negotiations with trade unions.
Six EU members don’t have a statutory minimum wage currently. These are Austria, Cyprus, Finland, Sweden, and Italy. These countries all rely on trade unions to protect workers, so the EU proposals could mean major changes to the way wages are set.
A European Commission statement said: “There will not be a one-size-fits-all minimum wage. Any potential proposal will reflect national traditions, whether collective agreements or legal provisions. Some countries already have excellent systems in place. The Commission wishes to ensure all systems are adequate, have sufficient coverage, include thorough consultation of social partners, and have an appropriate update mechanism in place.”
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