Improving living standards and increasing social convergence are the main aims of the EU Directive on adequate minimum wages, said Commissioner Schmit to MEPs.
Jobs and Social Rights Commissioner Nicolas Schmit today discussed the new Directive on adequate minimum wages in the European Union with the European Parliament’s Employment and Social Affairs Committee. This new proposal calls on member states to promote collective bargaining on wages and to establish clear criteria for setting minimum wages.
Questioned about the enforcement of this directive and its guidelines, Commissioner Schmit reassured MEPs that this proposal does not oblige member states to introduce statutory minimum wages, nor does it try to set a common minimum wage: “it is just creating a framework for higher minimum wages in member states”.
Regarding the criteria for setting the minimum wage, MEPs asked Commissioner Schmit about the benefits and consequences of using productivity to establish minimum wages. The Commissioner reiterated the importance of productivity and said that wages should not lag behind productivity, as “wages have not followed productivity increases”.
Several Members were concerned about member states being required to take action if their collective bargaining coverage is less than 70%. This would interfere with national systems, MEPs said, especially in the Nordic countries, where collective bargaining is ensured exclusively by trade partners. The Commissioner reassured MEPs that this proposal is simply a basic legal principle and that the Commission would not radically change national systems.
Regarding the scope of this directive, several MEPs expressed their concern about atypical workers, people outside the labour market, and employees who are not . Commissioner Schmit stated that this proposal applies only to contracted employees and that the situation of workers without a contract needs to be addressed through other measures. Furthermore, member states who only have should encourage social partners to extend to people that are still not covered by it, he added.
The Commissioner stressed that the practical impact of this directive could not be measured in the short-term, but rather the medium- to long-term. The Commission therefore proposes that an effective monitoring system be established, with annual reports assessing the evolution of wages and minimum wages in member states.
On the topic of inequalities, MEPs highlighted the gender pay gap, stressing that the majority of low-wage earners (1 in 6 EU workers) are women. The Commissioner repeated that increasing minimum wages would benefit women and help close the gender pay gap.
The video recording of the debate is available here (Parliament’s Multimedia Centre).