The Slovenia Times

Labour minister happy with EU deal on minimum wage

Daily news

Brussels - Labour Minister Janez Cigler Kralj chaired on Monday a session of the EU's Employment and Social Policy Council on minimum wages in the EU at which an agreement was reached on the proposed directive aimed at securing fair pay. Cigler Kralj said he was happy that such an important agreement had been reached after intensive negotiations.

"Decent and fair pay must be guaranteed for the work that is done. This a matter of basic respect for people and their work. The directive is particularly important for the most vulnerable, as it will help prevent in-work poverty," said Cigler Kralj about the directive proposed by the European Commission.

He said he was happy that the council had reached the agreement, because it had seemed at the start of the Slovenian EU presidency that agreement would be difficult to reach.

According to the minister, the negotiations had been extremely challenging and intensive, as some member states expressed doubts about the appropriateness of the legal basis and were against any major changes to their national legislation.

European Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights Nicolas Schmit too said an agreement had seemed difficult to reach. Today an important step has been taken to show that Europe must not be a place where people cannot live off their work, but a place where people receive fair pay and that Europe's future must not be built on low wages, he said.

The proposed directive creates a framework for encouraging appropriate minimum wage levels, collective negotiations on wages and protection of workers' minimum wage.

The powers of countries and social partners in setting the amount of minimum wage are respected, but the directive encourages efficient procedures for transparency and stability.

It is estimated that the directive could enable a rise in minimum wage in more than half of EU countries and have a positive effect on more than 25 million workers, the Labour Ministry said.

The Commission presented the proposal in October 2020 and the European Parliament endorsed it at the end of last month, paving the way for negotiations with the Council.

The agreement reached today, which was backed by most member states, enables the continuation of negotiations with the Parliament. Hungary and Denmark did not back the proposal today, and Germany and Austria abstained from the vote, Schmit said.

This morning, the labour ministers adopted decrees on sustainable work put forward by the EU presidency. They agreed that security and health at work should be improved, that life-long learning should be encouraged and that solutions ought to be found for work-life balance.

The ministers then discussed and adopted their joint stance on a directive on binding measures for the transparency of wages. The aim is to ensure equal pay for equal work. Today's agreement on this allows the start of negotiations with the Parliament as soon as the latter adopts its own position on the matter.

"It simply cannot be justified that women still earn much less than men. With today's agreement on the Council, the EU has taken a major step in the fight against pay discrimination and the elimination of the gender pay gap," said Cigler Kralj, noting that women and men must be paid equally for work of equal value.

The directive includes measures such as the use of objective, gender-neutral criteria for employers when setting pay, the right of workers to request information on the pay of their colleagues of the opposite sex, and regular pay reporting for large companies with more than 250 employees.

When it comes to the latter, some member states voiced their disappointment that the 250-staff limit is not lower. Cigler Kralj believes that the "right balance between ambition and flexibility" has been struck.


More from Daily news