[Portugal] Trade Unions Oppose EU-Wide Minimum Wage

Moves to create an EU-wide minimum wage system have met with opposition from trade unionists in some member states, Independent reports.

The CGTP - Portugal's largest trade union federation - has become the latest to object to the Brussels drive. They argue that such proposals are a "trap" which could hurt workers. 

Trade unionists from Nordic countries like Sweden and Denmark have previously criticised the proposal, which is backed by Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president. In Sweden and Denmark, it is the norm to set wages through collective bargaining.

Ms Von der Leyen argues that a framework governing EU minimum wages could help stop the "brain drain" from east to west across the continent, reducing the incentive for workers to migrate between countries. 

Arménio Carlos - the Portuguese CGTP’s secretary-general - said, "The European Commission's proposal clearly aims to assume a logic of interference in what is the responsibility of each member state, which is to define collective hiring policies and at the same time salary increases.”

"We are facing a trap because there is no European minimum salary. What there is is a discussion of criteria that, if applied, would be detrimental to Portuguese workers.

Unions are worried that EU criteria could be used as a pretext to set sights lower in future because Portugal has a comparatively high minimum wage, relative to its median income and poverty threshold. Additionally, it has a high (89 per cent) level of collective bargaining coverage.

Brussels would not set an explicit salary floor, under the proposal, it would instead establish in each country rules about what proportion of the cost of living the minimum wage would have to cover.

Six EU member states set no statutory minimum wage and rely on trade unions to protect workers: Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Italy and Sweden. The lowest monthly minimum wage in the EU is Bulgaria, paying €286, the highest is Luxembourg at €2,071.

Nicolas Schmit - Commissioner for Jobs and Social Rights - said, “The working lives of millions of Europeans will change in the coming years. We need to take action to allow the future workforce to flourish. 

"Europe's innovative and inclusive social market economy must be about people: providing them with quality jobs that pay an adequate wage. No Member State, no region, no person can be left behind. We must continue to strive for the highest of standards in labour markets so that all Europeans can live their lives with dignity and ambition.”

A statement from the European Commission said, "There will not be a one-size-fits-all minimum wage. Any potential proposal will reflect national traditions, whether collective agreements or legal provisions. Some countries already have excellent systems in place. The Commission wishes to ensure all systems are adequate, have sufficient coverage, include thorough consultation of social partners, and have an appropriate update mechanism in place."