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Letter to the EU exposes cracks within European Trade Union Confederation

| Text: Kerstin Ahlberg, editor EU & Arbetsrätt

It is with regret that we need to inform the Commission that the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) reply regarding the consultation on European minimum wages is not representative for us. That is what ten trade union confederations from Denmark, Iceland, Norway and Sweden write in a letter which highlights a historic crack in ETUC.

The letter is directed to the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis and the Commissioner responsible, Nicolas Schmit. The signatories are Danish FH; ASI, BSRB and BHM from Iceland; Norwegian LO, Unio and YS; and Swedish LO, TCO and Saco.

The ten unions explain how they ended up in a minority as the member organisations voted on how the ETUC should reply to the Commission’s proposals for the possible introduction of European minimum wages. That is why they now feel it necessary to present their views to the Commission directly.

Far-reaching formulations

They underline that they do share the same goal regarding an internal market without inequalities and social dumping, where nationwide collective agreements lead to increased wage shares and fairer wages.

They also highlight the fact that the ETUC secretariat has tried to find a balance among the member organisations, which they appreciate. But the ETUC reply contains far-reaching formulations, like member states shall “ensure”, ”guarantee” or be “required to”…, which indicate that binding legislation must be passed.

And that is precisely the main problem, according to the ten organisations. Legally binding EU rules concerning wages and collective bargaining would have huge negative effects on the Nordic countries’ labour market models.

No right to pass binding legislation

It would upset the balance of power between state/EU level on the one side and the social partners on the other, they write. Furthermore, they argue, the EU has no right at all to pass binding legislation on wages.

They therefore hope that the Commission will abstain from presenting any initiative on binding EU legislation on minimum wages.


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