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Sweden opposes Brussels proposal for EU minimum wage guarantee

Euro coins are seen in Frankfurt, central Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006.
Euro coins are seen in Frankfurt, central Germany, Tuesday, Nov. 28, 2006. Copyright MICHAEL PROBST/AP
By Meabh McMahon
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Brussels is proposing to introduce a legal guarantee for a minimum wage in the EU but leave individual countries to determine how much it will be.


A proposed new directive from Brussels aims to give the European Union a minimum wage. 

But it's not intended to be a one-size-fits-all figure for the whole bloc - it plans to be a legal guarantee that a worker from Bulgaria to Luxembourg can earn enough to live from.

"Minimum wages work, and it is time that work paid," said Valdis Dombrovskis, vice president of the European Commission. 

"Since the financial crisis, those who earn the least have suffered the most in terms of not reaping the benefits of economic growth." 

The European Commission's minimum wage proposal would provide the calculations and EU member state would then set their wage, based on living costs, house prices and national GDP.

Denmark and Sweden are against an EU-wide directive. They say it is not up to politicians to set the minimum wage.

"It is the unions and the employers who negotiate collective agreements every year or two years or whatever length is, and that has worked very well," Hans Dahlgren, Sweden's European affairs minister, told Euronews.

"(We have) very few days lost in industrial action, for example, good wage development etc. I think this is the best way for us. We don't want this directive."

Sweden may not want the directive, but some countries need one otherwise the most vulnerable workers will continue to get exploited.

That is how the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) feels. For them, the best takeaway from today's proposal is that collective bargaining would also become the norm, so countries in the east could also see progress with time.

"The workers throughout the EU, in particular in the east, are as productive as in the west but they are not getting their fair share, so that is why the provision with [the] right to collective bargaining is really important because that is the major difference," says Esther Lynch, ETUC Deputy General Secretary.

Before the directive enters into law, EU countries would have to all agree on it. ETUC hope they do so fast and believe this legal instrument would be the only way to tackle exploitation in Europe.

"I have been a minimum wage worker and it is tough work," said Lynch. "I think it is really really important that this directive is not allowed to put on the long finger or that those forces, who seem to be quite comfortable and want to keep exploitative lower rates of pay as an option, that we put an end to that."

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