Since March, Mathias Maucher, EAPN Policy Officer, has participated as an invited expert in the “Diversity Europe Group” (Group III) of the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) in drafting and discussing the EESC Explanatory Opinion “Decent Minimum Wage across Europe”. EAPN’s National Networks from Germany, Poland, Romania, Spain and Sweden were also involved in the work. They shared valuable insights and data in a survey on the national situation regarding decent minimum wages (for which these five countries had been selected) as well as their main policy demands in view of the need and direction of EU-level initiatives
EAPN policy staff and members have regularly provided inputs and feedback on the draft versions of the Explanatory Opinion “Decent MW across Europe” (SOC 632) to Séamus Boland, Ireland, Chairperson of Group III and President of the EESC set up for this purpose. EAPN was also involved in meetings of the Study Group, also intervening to explain the contribution suggested by Group III.
Some of the main arguments by EAPN:
- Minimum wages help guarantee and realise social rights;
- The role of minimum wages to reverse the trend of increasing number of working poor in the EU and workers with precious employment conditions;
- Minimum wages should be living wages, while also ensuring the health and well-being of workers and employment/job quality;
- The “reference” net statutory minimum wage needs to be set significantly above the poverty threshold (AROP indicator) – at least at 60% of the (full-time) gross median wage – and also needs to be fair in relation to overall wages in the labour market;
- In order to stimulate active inclusion and reverse the continued increases of working poor it is key to ensure a positive upward hierarchy between minimum income (and other social benefits based on social contributions) on the one hand and fair and decent minimum wages on the other.
In the final version most of these points are reflected, even though often only partly taking up EAPN key demands. All points are, however, at least supported by the “Workers’ Group” (Group II) and the “Diversity Europe Group” (Group III). The Explanatory Opinion will feed into the social partner consultations run by the European Commission on a possible EU-level legislative initiative on fair minimum wages.
A 1st phase social partner consultation was launched 14 January. On 3 June the European Commission published the EC Staff Working Document SWD(2020)105. It highlights again why minimum wages matter, how they are set, who are the minimum wage earners. It also sets out the objectives of EU action, available policy options and their impacts, broadly in line with EAPN’s proposals and requests contained in the EAPN Position Paper on Adequate Income (May 2020). It is also reflected in the EAPN Input to the EC Consultation for the Action Plan on the European Pillar of Social Rights.
In order to get the views of the national and EU-level social partners on the specific objectives of a possible EU action, on specific avenues for EU action and the appropriate legal instruments to do so, the 2nd phase social partner consultation was opened on 3 June 2020. It is based on a second consultation document. It ended on 4 September. The EC is expected to come up with its legislative proposal in autumn 2020