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Six MEPs' views on statutory minimum wages

| Text: Gunhild Wallin and Bengt Rolfer

The proposed directive on statutory minimum wages has still not been through the European Parliament. But just over one year ago, with a clear 422-131 majority, it called on the Commission to present a proposal to secure a fair minimum wage for all workers in the Union.

We have asked some Nordic MEPs what they think about the EU Commission’s proposed directive.


From top left: Eero Heinäluoma, Sirpa Pietikäinen, Jessica Polfjärd, Nikolaj Villumsen, Karen Melchior and Helen Fritzon. Photo credits at the bottom of the page.

Jessica Polfjärd, the Moderate Party, Sweden

“Since the start, the Moderates have pointed out that this is a threat to our Nordic labour market model. Decent salaries and fair conditions should of course be the norm, but the EU should not be granted far-reaching influence over our functioning social partners model and its right to independence and contractual freedom. A recommendation from the EU had been preferable to a directive. We will continue to oppose this and it would have been preferable if we had greater consensus in Swedish on this issue from the very beginning. It is regrettable that the Swedish Social Democrats instead drove the agenda which has now resulted in this proposal.”

Helene Fritzon, the Swedish Social Democratic Party

“The EU’s intentions behind its ambitions to create minimum wages which will give more people the opportunity to lead a decent life, no matter where they work, are good. But we cannot accept a proposal that risks hollowing out the Swedish model that the labour movement has been fighting for for decades – a model that has served us well. That is why we are very critical to the fact that the EU has chosen to further a proposed directive that risks jeopardising our national wage formation model and the social partners’ independence. This means the EU is taking a large step towards increased supranationalism in an area the social partners in Sweden are mainly responsible for. The EU does not have the competence nor the right to legislate when it comes to wages.”

Eero Heinäluoma, the Social Democratic Party of Finland

“The social dimension is an important EU priority and the reduction of inequalities is central to EU cooperation. While the EU deepens its economic cooperation and trade among its member states, workers’ position in the labour market should be safeguarded. The directive does not define wage levels nor does it interfere with collective bargaining systems at a national level, but would introduce an instrument to reduce in-work poverty and support wage growth especially in countries with low statutory minimum wages. It would function as a safety net to workers without union-security protection, and also protect employers from unfair competition.”

Sirpa Pietikäinen, the National Coalition Party of Finland

“The Commission's proposal as it is now is a good model. It means collective agreements will always be the preferred method. The new framework would only step in if this kind of protection is not in place. In countries where collective agreements do not exist like they do in the Nordics, the adequate minimum wages directive should work well.”

Karen Melchior, the Danish Social Liberal Party

“I think the proposed directive is quite good. It means a strengthening of the collective agreement model, and it increases the importance of the social partners’ role. There is much resistance to the proposal in Denmark, but I think this is a knee-jerk reaction. The social partners do not want their role to be jeopardised and focus on the uncertainty surrounding how it will all work. I believe this worry is unfounded, and have yet to hear any convincing argument for it. The Commission will not set the minimum wage level – it will be up to individual member states to find acceptable wage levels for everyone in society. This is not the situation in many countries today. It is fair and just to strengthen negotiated wages.”

Nikolaj Willumssen, The Red-Green Alliance, Denmark

“The directive really helps no-one. It does not put any binding demands on countries that already have statutory minimum wages, and it also does not make any exceptions for countries with high levels of trade union membership like Sweden and Denmark. There is no doubt that wages are far too low in many EU countries. But instead of allowing the EU to decide our wages, we should focus on strengthening trade union membership in EU countries and together fight in order to increase wages. If we allow the EU to decide our pay, we risk that it uses this power in future to demand wage cuts. Collective agreement negotiations are at the core of the Danish labour market model. That is why the directive represents a weakening of that model. I hope we succeed in stopping this through the yellow card procedure.”

Photo credits: 

  • Eero Heinäluoma -
  • Sirpa Pietikäinen -
  • Jessica Polfjärd -  European People's Party
  • Nikolaj Villumsen - Wikipedia
  • Karen Melchior -  European Union/Giedre Daugelaite
  • Helene Fritzon - Bengt Rolfer
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