Thursday, October 6, 2022
The European Council adopted this week the Adequate Minimum Wage Directive, which was previously negotiated by the EU Commission and member states governments and voted overwhelmingly in favor by the European Parliament plenary last month. Member states have two years to implement it.
The Directive’s aim is two-fold: first, it provides a framework that member states can use in setting up their statutory minimum wage, namely at 60% of their gross median wage or at 50% of their gross average wage. These levels are the guidelines, but member states are required to come up with their own framework to ensure wage levels are adequate (i.e., keeping up with raising costs or inflation). Countries that do not have a statutory minimum wage (Sweden, Denmark, Italy etc.) will not be forced to implement one. Secondly, this piece of legislation seeks to strengthen collective bargaining for EU workers, especially in member states where less than 80% of the workforce is covered by collective bargaining.
One of the spearheads of the European Christian Political Movement is the concept of a relational economic model and that economy should serve the people, not enslave them. The ECPM is in favor of political, social and economic policies which aim to support disadvantaged and poor people and lift them up. Those living on minimum wage in our countries are the fast-food and restaurant workers, your barista, the grocery store and clothing store workers, the florist, the factory worker, the postman, the bus driver, even the social worker. These are people we encounter every day and without whom our societies would crumble. The economic crisis, the inflation and rising cost of living has not particularly affected the wealthy; on the contrary, they kept making money and increased their profit margins. It is the middle and low-income class who suffers the most in times like these and they are those who need support and protection.
MEP Helmut Geuking voted in favor of this Directive and motivated his vote this way: “The demand for fair wages is certainly a theme of the Bible: ‘He who works has a right to his livelihood.’ (Matthew 10:10) As a Christian, I voted in favor of the Adequate Minimum Wage Directive to actively fight poverty and to thereby establish an essential instrument for more social justice. When politics is no longer working for the people and has even moved away from basic Christian values, it is time for people like us to change politics.”
There have been criticisms that this is yet another attempt from Brussels and its bureaucratic institutions to impose their ideas and will on the EU Member States. Or that it will discourage entrepreneurship and start-ups and will hinder business development. Of course, those fears are valid but in the case of this Directive, the member states governments have been included in the negotiating process from the beginning. The new law advocates for a decent standard of living for low-income workers, for collective bargaining to be strengthened and for workers to be protected, including right to redress if their rights are violated, all while respecting the member states’ national wage-setting practices and allowing for some exceptions and flexibility from the stated guidelines. It seems the principle of subsidiarity is respected in this case.
Fair minimum wages can help to ensure that more and more people in Europe are guaranteed a decent standard of living, which we must take very seriously. At the same time, we need to make sure that the EU does not interfere with national social policies and leaves space for the various differences between member states. This Directive, in the end, struck a right balance between these two interests, said MEP Peter van Dalen.