EU proposals on minimum wages meet internal resistance

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The European Commission wants minimum wages as part of a package on social rights. The Nordic member states fear this could undermine the Nordic model.

Ursula von der Leyen and her recent commission are not looking to set a specific level of pay that will apply across the Union. As part of the package, they will work for a common framework for determining the minimum wage.

“As a first step, we will start gathering views on how the EU should possibly proceed to ensure that all workers are guaranteed a sufficient minimum wage,” the commission wrote on its website on Tuesday afternoon.

Labor Commissioner Nicolas Schmit said in a press release that the working lives of millions of Europeans will change in the years to come.

“An innovative and inclusive labor market must be about people – ensuring them good jobs that pay enough. No member countries, regions or people should be left behind. We will continue to strive for a labor market that allows all Europeans to live with dignity and ambition,” says Schmit.

Requires exception
Resistance is expected, especially from the six of the EU’s 28 member states that currently have no official minimum wage.

Three of these countries are our Nordic neighbors Sweden, Denmark and Finland. Like Norway, they have a well-established system where the social partners determine the wage level. The Nordic EU countries fear that a joint scheme could undermine this model.

“In Denmark, only the trade unions and business organizations negotiate wages. This has been the case for over 100 years,” says Danish Labor Minister Peter Hummelgaard to The Guardian. He fears, like his Nordic colleagues, that a minimum wage based on an EU model will undermine today’s system. He therefore requires a written guarantee for exemption from a future directive.

At the same time, Hummelgaard emphasizes that he supports increased salaries for those who have the least pay in Europe.

“Any possible proposal should take into account national traditions, including collective agreements,” the Commission assures in the press release.

“Some countries already have excellent systems in place. The Commission wants to ensure that all systems are adequate, have coverage (…) and have an appropriate update mechanism,” it continues.

Labor Party skeptical
In Norway, too, there is skepticism that the EU will make minimum wage rules.

“We have a high standard on pay and working conditions in Norway. If the EU’s minimum wage level removes power and authority from Norwegian trust-based tripartite cooperation, we in the Labor Party (Ap) are opposed,” says the party’s labor policy spokesman Arild Grande to NTB. He says Ap will not accept anything that “weakens central pillars of the Norwegian model.”

The EUobserver points out that the EU does not have the authority to regulate wages, the right to strike or the right of association. These areas are exempt from the EU Treaty which determines which areas the Union can control.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today

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