Germany is on track to introduce of a nationwide minimum wage, following months of heated debate among politicians and businesses who have warned this will would cost jobs.
The centre-left Social Democrats (SPD) insisted on the minimum wage as a condition for joining Germany’s government coalition.
It was easily voted through the lower house of parliament, with the upper house set to follow suit.
German Labour Minister Andrea Nahles, who is from the SPD and who drafted the law, told lawmakers: “If in the future you go to a shop and buy some flowers from a nice sales-lady, or if you call a call center to get some information, you can be sure that in all those places they’ll will be on the minimum wage. From next January 1st almost four million people will be able to sleep better, will be doing better and will feel that their efforts are worthwhile.”
Among Europe’s biggest economies France has a minimum wage of nine euros and 53 centimes per hour. Germany’s is now eight euros and 50 cents. Britain raised its in March 2014 to the equivalent of eight euros 19 cents.
Up till now, Germany was one of seven of the 28 European Union countries without a minimum wage.
It was resisted in the past partly because it is seen as political interference in wage bargaining between unions and employers.
Germany instead relied on collective wage deals by sector and region. But coverage by such agreements has fallen in recent years from 70 percent of workers in 1998 to 59 percent now.
Exception cause union anger
The new law will include more exemptions than initially envisaged, concessions which Nahles said were intended to enable a smooth transition. Some sectors will be allowed to delay introducing the wage for two years to help them adjust, and certain groups can be paid less under certain conditions.
The exemptions have prompted outrage from labour unions, who say they will hurt the weakest people in the labour market.
“With the high number of exceptions, the coalition has brutally amputated the minimum wage,” Frank Bsirske, head of the influential Verdi labour union, said over the weekend.