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EU minimum wage law passes despite criticism from Sweden and Denmark

AFP
AFP - [email protected]
EU minimum wage law passes despite criticism from Sweden and Denmark
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen. Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/AFP

On Tuesday, EU officials hailed an agreement on setting common rules for establishing minimum wages across most of the bloc, though Sweden and Denmark had opposed the move.

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The negotiations between EU member states and the European Parliament did not fix a nominal minimum salary to be applied, but rather what criteria must be used to ensure an "adequate" level is arrived at in each country.

The rules will be mandatory for 21 of the EU's 27 member countries once the directive from Brussels is introduced into national statutes, which will take another two years.

Sweden and Denmark said they were against the directive, viewing it as political interference in their national wage-setting systems, based on collective bargaining.

But that is not enough to stop the measure going ahead, as more than 15 of the 27 EU countries back it, providing the necessary qualified majority.

The directive will not apply to six EU countries where collective agreements between unions and employers set salary levels: Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden.

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European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen said the new rules "will protect the dignity of work and make sure that work pays" while respecting "national traditions and social partners' autonomy".

Among the criteria to set statutory minimum wages will be weighing them against median salaries in the country and the cost of living, while also ensuring they don't worsen gender pay gaps.

READ ALSO: Why is Denmark opposed to an EU minimum wage law?

Von der Leyen's commissioner on jobs and social rights, Nicolas Schmit, told journalists the timing of the agreement was important, coming as the EU grapples with skyrocketing inflation and tight labour markets.

"In the present context, where we have such strong inflation, those on the lowest wages should not be the victims of these inflationary trends," he said.

He added employers had incentive to back "fair wages," which he said helped avoid "splitting the society (between) those who have, and those who have nothing".

EU countries have a wide range of minimum salaries, going from 332 euros ($354) per month in Bulgaria to 2,202 euros in Luxembourg, according to official 2021 figures.

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