EU ministers agree guarantees for low-paid workers

President of the European Central Bank Christine Lagarde (left) and the Ministers of Finance of EU countries pose for the twentieth anniversary European common currency (EURO) after a Eurozone Finance ministers (Eurogroup) meeting at the EU headquarters in Brussels on December 6, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
BRUSSELS — EU ministers on Monday agreed measures to better protect wage levels in Europe and give workers more power to oppose low pay.اضافة اعلان

While the proposal does not set an EU-wide minimum wage, once confirmed it would mark a significant step in promoting the European social model, especially in eastern European countries where salaries are low.

The 27 member states are historically divided on the issue because national pay systems and minimum wages vary widely, from 312 euros ($352) a month in Bulgaria to 2,142 euros ($2,419) in Luxembourg, according to figures published last year.

Some Nordic countries are especially against any change to their collective bargaining system in which companies negotiate pay directly with powerful unions, without state intervention. 

"Work should pay," said Slovenian labor minister Janez Cigler Kralj, whose country holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency.

"We cannot accept that people who put all their energy in their job still live in poverty and cannot afford a decent standard of living," he added.

In the plan, countries without collective bargaining systems, which typically deliver better wage conditions for workers, are urged to implement them.
Countries with minimum wage systems are tasked to ensure that pay levels are updated in a regular and fair manner.

An EU source said the compromise agreed was fragile and that negotiators will be under pressure to not give ground to the European Parliament, which passed its own version of the law last month.

France takes over the EU presidency on January 1 and has made forging a compromise between both versions of the plan a priority of its six-month term.

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