EESC gives its say on the need for an EU instrument for minimum wages

The European Economic and Social Committee has adopted an opinion on Decent minimum wages across Europe in which it gave its contribution to the ongoing EU-wide debate on the subject.

This exploratory opinion was requested by the European Parliament, following the Commission's  announcement that it was considering proposing a legal instrument to ensure that every EU worker is entitled to a minimum wage allowing a decent standard of living.

In the opinion, the EESC argued that fair minimum wages could help reduce poverty among working poor people, combined with person-centred, integrated and active inclusion policies.

However, it stressed that any such EU initiative must be shaped on the basis of an accurate analysis of the situation in the Member States, and must fully respect the social partners' role and autonomy, as well as the different industrial relations models.

As for the way ahead, the three groups within the EESC, representing the EU's employers, trade unions and civil society organisations, have expressed divergent views.

On behalf of the EESC's Employers' Group, rapporteur Stefano Mallia said: "The Employers' Group believes that the EU has no competence over pay, and pay levels in particular, and that setting minimum wages is a national matter, done in accordance with the specific features of respective national systems. Any misguided action on the part of the EU must be avoided, especially at this particular point in time. Where the social partners need support, we should look into addressing specific needs by promoting exchanges of best practices and capacity-building and not fall into the trap of coming up with a one-size-fits all approach that could have serious negative consequences."

Representing the EESC Workers' Group, rapporteur Oliver Röpke said: "Ensuring that workers across the EU benefit from decent minimum wages must be an essential part of the EU's recovery strategy. For the Workers' Group, it is indisputable that all workers should be protected by fair minimum wages allowing a decent standard of living wherever they work. Collective bargaining remains the most effective way of guaranteeing fair wages and must also be strengthened and promoted in all the Member States. We therefore welcome the Commission's recognition that there is scope for EU action to promote the role of collective bargaining in supporting minimum wage adequacy and coverage." (ll)