Danish parliament rejects EU minimum wage directive

Denmark's acting employment minister Mattias Tesfaye. The country is opposed to a standardised EU minimum wage. Photo: Ólafur Steinar Rye Gestsson/Ritzau Scanpix
The government in Denmark has been given parliament backing to reject an EU directive on minimum wages.

Acting employment minister Mattias Tesfaye confirmed the situation after a meeting with parliament’s EU committee on Thursday.

“I’m glad parliament agrees with the government that we must protect the Danish model with free negotiations over wages on the labour market,” Tesfaye said.

A legal minimum wage is generally an unpopular concept in Danish politics because it clashes with the country’s traditional labour model, in which wages are determined through collective bargaining agreements between trade unions and employer representation. That is facilitated by a high level of union membership.

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The directive only applies to EU countries which already have minimum wage laws, meaning Denmark and neighbouring Sweden are excluded.

But Denmark’s opposition to the directive nevertheless sends an important signal, according to Tesfaye.

Additionally, both Denmark and Sweden are concerned that minimum wage could eventually be enforced should a person who works in either country take the issue to the EU court.

Tesfaye, of the ruling Social Democratic party, claimed he appreciated the purpose of the directive, which was negotiated between the EU parliament, EU Commission and member states,

“I can understand that other countries are concerned about what is going on on their labour markets with low wages where people can’t live a dignified life,

“But we have found a better model in Denmark and it is worth protecting and it must not be destroyed by a common European directive,” the minister said.

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