The Slovenia Times

Minimum wage directive progress one of EU presidency successes


Ljubljana - The government considers the harmonisation of the Council of the EU's position on the minimum wage directive to be among the successes of Slovenia's EU presidency. The progress and efforts were also commended by Slovenia's trade unions and other institutions.

Pay is regulated differently in individual EU states, either by law or collective bargaining agreements. The proposed EU directive only provides a framework and does not interfere with the decisions of countries on how to regulate the minimum wage.

In addition to the four fundamental criteria for setting the minimum wage, the directive provides indicators and benchmarks for assessing the adequacy of the minimum wage.

Under the proposed directive, which aims to ensure adequate working conditions and create fair and resilient economies, the minimum wage is to be set at 60% of the national median wage and 50% of the national average gross wage.

The directive requires countries to adjust the minimum wage regularly and in a timely manner to ensure that it remains in line with the criteria.

It also provides for the promotion of collective bargaining agreements. Under the proposal, EU member states where collective bargaining agreements do not cover at least 70% of workers would be required to draw up an action plan.

Countries would be required to report on the coverage of wages by collective agreements and the share of people on minimum wage every two years. This should ensure greater transparency and facilitate the coordination of economic policies at EU level.

The Labour Ministry did not comment on the details, but said that this directive could lead to an increase in minimum wages in many EU countries and have a positive impact on more than 25 million workers.

"This was a remarkable success for Slovenia ... as an agreement between member states was considered unlikely at the start of the presidency", the ministry said.

"Decent and fair pay must be guaranteed - it is about basic respect for people and their work. The directive is particularly important for the most vulnerable," Minister Janez Cigler Kralj told the STA after the Council of the EU's position was agreed.

Slovenian trade unions were satisfied too. This is a first step towards preventing social dumping and unfair competition in the EU, especially at the expense of workers' economic and social rights, said Slovenia's Association of Free Trade Unions.

"It must be highlighted that an EU directive is a legally binding act for member states. If it is not implemented in the national law of an EU country, it becomes directly applicable after a certain period of time," they added.

"This is a compromise that has succeeded in coordinating the very different positions of the member states. We are glad that this first step has been taken," said the KSJS association of public sector trade unions.

What will be crucial is how countries implement the agreed framework - what the action plans will be and how strictly they will be enforced, the KSJS noted, adding that they believe Slovenia already has an adequate minimum wage framework.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GZS) said that both principal objectives of the proposed directive are already met in Slovenia: an adequate way of setting the minimum wage and more than 70% of wages covered by collective agreements.

According to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the share was 78.8% in 2017, and the GZS believes that it has increased further since then.

The Chamber of Craft and Small Business of Slovenia (OZS) also underlined their support, adding that "future regulation must not lead to greater pressure on increasing the minimum wage in countries where it is already high, including Slovenia".

The European Commission was pleased with the results in this area as well, and saw the harmonised proposal as a good basis for launching a trialogue with the European Parliament.

The position of the Council of the EU is the basis for continuing negotiations with the European Parliament, which are expected to start in January under the French presidency and be concluded by the end of March.

"Further negotiations will be difficult because the compromise reached under the Slovenian presidency is very delicate and many countries have no room for manoeuvre, especially with regard to some of the EU Parliament's ambitious proposals," warned the Labour Ministry.


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