Europe takes a first step to improve the condition of the “working poor”

In the field of wages, it is an important agreement, and almost unexpected, that the European ministers of social affairs concluded on Monday 6 December. It should ultimately affect 25 million workers, according to the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI). However, it will not be a question of forcing the States which do not have one to create a minimum wage and, for the others, there will not be, contrary to what some detractors claim, a minimum threshold. uniform for this one. The European Union (EU) does not have the power to impose standards on the remuneration of workers.

The ministers however innovated by adopting a common position concerning new rules which should, in time – within two years? -, improve the lowest wages in Europe and, consequently, help to fight both social dumping and the phenomenon of “poor workers”, which currently affects 10% of those who have a job.

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The agreement concluded will allow the opening of a trilogue between the States (the Council), the European Commission (which tabled its proposal for a directive in October 2020) and the European Parliament (which approved, at the end of November, its mandate negotiation). Only the broad outlines of the consensus reached are known, but, obviously, the position of the States is behind that of the other two institutions, even if the proclamation is identical: “We must prevent people who invest fully in their work living in poverty”, declared on Monday the Slovenian Minister of Labor, Janez Cigler Kralj, whose country assumes the rotating president of the Union.

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Do not infringe on national prerogatives

According to Nicolas Schmit, European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Integration, the aim is to demonstrate that “Europe cannot be the continent where people cannot live on their wages”. “And the EU could not be any longer on the sidelines of a debate that even the United States launched under the Biden presidency,” insists Sylvie Brunet, Modem MEP.

If the discussion has hitherto been centered on the principle of the “framework relating to minimum standards”, mentioned in the Commission proposal, it will now be necessary to move forward on the definition of “adequate levels” of minimum wages. Without encroaching on national prerogatives. Shortly after Monday’s agreement, the employers’ association BusinessEurope hastened to publish a press release insisting on the absence of obligations made to States and the necessary “Flexibility” which they should have in order to define what constitutes an adequate salary. No question either, in the proposal of the Council – which does not follow the Commission – to create individual rights for the workers, welcomes the employers.

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Europe takes a first step to improve the condition of the “working poor”

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