Minimum wages in Europe need strong social dialogue

CEC European Managers has replied to the EU consultation on minimum wages, highlighting the pivotal role of social partnership and collective bargaining in wage policy. CEC agrees with the necessity to ensure that minimum wage provisions are in place in Member States, in a context of reinforcement of collective bargaining and in full respect of national traditions. In those countries where statutory minimum wage provisions exist, the intervention of social partners shall be guaranteed at all stages of the legislative process.

The European Commission has consulted CEC European Managers as one of the six European cross-industry social partners about a possible initiative in the field of minimum wages. According to the managers’ organisation, any possible EU action in this field should neither seek to harmonise the level of minimum wages across the EU nor establish a uniform mechanism for setting minimum wages. Such mechanisms should instead respect national traditions, social partners’ autonomy and the freedom of collective bargaining.

Particularly the importance of focussing on collective bargaining is the core of CEC European Managers’ position. An effective and pervasive collective bargaining system is a precondition for well-functioning labour markets. Countries where social dialogue – of which solid collective bargaining is the core – is strong show more resilience, are better at facing and solving more quickly imbalances of the labour markets and generally demonstrate more competitiveness.

A European minimum wage initiative should aim at obtaining that Member States not only specify what actors are entitled to participate in the minimum wage setting process and what roles they play, but also the regularity at which updates are required and what criteria to follow, such as macro-economic indicators. It would also be necessary to include a non-regression clause, to preserve the level of protection already ensured by national collective
bargaining systems and enforce the principle that, in those countries where coverage is
extensive, the application of the minimum wage is only “residual”.

As far as legislative instruments are concerned, a recommendation could identify the common objective to reach throughout the Union, that is, to ensure every working person in the EU benefits of a living wage to be able to participate in society. Looking at the aspect of enforcement and compliance, next to the reinforcement of Member States’ surveillance and fraud-detection systems, it is necessary to increase the capacity of national authorities to collect reliable and complete information about the actual prevalence of minimum-wage on the job market.

Consultation document

Please find the response of CEC European Managers to the second stage consultation on a European minimum wage here