The European Commission has proposed a new framework for minimum wages in EU member states – a move welcomed by Cecop, the European confederation of industrial and service co-operatives.
Cecop president Giuseppe Guerini said the European Minimum Wage Directive marks “an important starting point” and could be used to intervene in unregulated matters such as atypical contracts, non-standard work and the gig economy.
Writing in an article on Cecop’s website, Mr Guerini said European legislation could respect national traditions while contributing to the establishment of “a fair minimum wage”; this would help to address the issue of employers relocating factories among and within member states to cut labour costs.
He said: “On these issues, the co-operative movement and organisations, especially worker co-operatives and social co-operatives, have to play in the offensive. By advocating and promoting new regulation that puts a halt to the ever more growing universe of platform workers that are not entirely autonomous, but also not entirely dependent.
“Co-operatives are an important tool to promote a new work culture, especially in the context of the stark transformation of our labour markets, where the defence of workers’ dignity and rights needs new strategies.
“We are certainly not at the advent of a European ‘Workers’ Charter’, but maybe we are at the beginning of a rocky and winded path that leads to a new European Labour Law, that looks at a future of work with dignity and confidence.
“Now, it is up to us co-operatives and co-operative associations to be proactive to shape this future of work. Now that the Minimum Wage Directive is introduced, we will have to get down to business and develop our proposals.”
The Commission argues that when set at adequate levels, minimum wages have a positive social impact and bring wider economic benefits by reducing wage inequality, helping to sustain domestic demand and strengthening incentives to work.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said: “Today’s proposal for adequate minimum wages is an important signal that also in crisis times, the dignity of work must be sacred. We have seen that for too many people, work no longer pays. Workers should have access to adequate minimum wages and a decent standard of living.
“What we propose today is a framework for minimum wages, in full respect of national traditions and the freedom of social partners. Improving working and living conditions will not only protect our workers, but also employers that pay decent wages, and create the basis for a fair, inclusive and resilient recovery.”
Minimum wages exist in all EU member states but the Commission says they are often insufficient or lack protection.
The proposed directive creates a framework to improve the adequacy of minimum wages and for access of workers to minimum wage protection in the EU. But it does not oblige member states to introduce statutory minimum wages, not does it set a common minimum wage level. The directive reiterates the EU’s non-interference with the freedom of member states to determine their minimum wages.
Nicolas Schmit, commissioner for jobs and social rights, said the Commission was not promising the same minimum wage for all Europeans; instead it wants closer convergence to reduce gaps and improve wages.
“Almost 10% of workers in the EU are living in poverty,” he said. “This has to change. People who have a job should not be struggling to make ends meet. Minimum wages have to play catch up with other wages, which have seen growth in recent decades, leaving minimum wages lagging behind.
“Collective bargaining should be the gold standard across all member states. Ensuring adequate minimum wages is written in black and white in Principle 6 of the European Pillar of Social Rights, which all member states have endorsed, so we are counting on their continued commitment.”