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The Brief: Brussels launches consultation on minimum wage across EU

The Brief: Brussels launches consultation on minimum wage across EU
Copyright © EC
Copyright © EC
By Maria Psara, Sandor Zsiros, Jack Parrock
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Ursula Von Der Leyen, commission president, has said that the goal is to stem a “brain drain” from east to west.


Brussels has launched a consultation aimed at strengthening minimum wages across the EU.

The European Commission insists it will not set a uniform salary but instead strengthen existing systems.

Ursula Von Der Leyen, commission president, has said that the goal is to stem a “brain drain” from east to west.

Klára Dobrev, a Hungarian MEP, told Euronews the existing system had seen large numbers of people leave her country. 

"It means that hundreds of thousands – in some countries millions - of people flee the country, went to Western Europe to work, we have a huge labour shortage, which is simply jeopardising our GDP growth as well. 

"So I think if we can make an agreement in European level about the European minimum wages, then this kind of very bad and very distracting competition could stop."

Only six EU countries – Denmark, Italy, Cyprus, Austria, Finland and Sweden – do not have a statutory minimum wage. 

And there are big differences between countries that do: Bulgaria’s current minimum wage for a full-time worker is €286 a month, compared with €2,071 in Luxembourg.

But some high-wage Nordic countries fear if Brussels gets involved it will undermine their century-old models of collective bargaining.

"We agree with the policy, with the ambition to strengthen and increase wages in Europe," Swedish MEP Johan Danielsson told Euronews.

"But the problem that we see from Sweden and other Nordic countries is that it might undermine other labour models where the social partners negotiate wages without any involvement of the state. 

"If you get EU legislation that says that every member state has to guarantee a certain percentage of the medium wage, let’s say, as a minimum, how you do that without the intervention of the state?"

The EC says national practices, such as collective bargaining, will be protected. It says in some countries the minimum wage doesn’t guarantee a standard of living, so it is necessary to prevent wage dumping between different countries.

"This is a historic opportunity," Luca Visentini, General Secretary ETUC (European Trade Union Confederation).

"It is the first time that the European Union takes stock of this very dramatic situation of wages in our continent and tries to propose a solution through European legislation.

"For us, the trade unions, that we have faced for more than one decade only austerity policy setting finally a legislative initiative from the European Union to boost a pay rise for the European workers is really important."

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