Illustration - Photo: pxfuel

Directive would set starting minimums for wage talks

European Trade Union Confederation launches campaign for European minimum wage

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) has launched a campaign to convince member states to stand by a European-level regulation of the minimum wage, an MEP of opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) said on Tuesday.

Klara Dobrev, a Vice-President of the European Parliament, told an online press conference on Tuesday that draft legislation on a European minimum wage was ready. “We still have a lot to do” before the directive is accepted as a mandatory decree, she added.

Dobrev called it “dramatic” that while food prices grew by 9 percent in Hungary, employees were offered a 3.6 percent wage rise for 2021.

EU regulation of the minimum wage “would mean that agreements on the minimum wage cannot be ignored or played down with empty excuses”, Dobrev said. Strong trade unions would not be sidelined, and the Hungarian minimum wage could not be one of the lowest in Europe, she said.

Laszlo Kordas, the head of the Hungarian Trade Union Confederation, said talks on the Hungarian minimum wage had been lengthy due to “the government’s idleness and helplessness”. The 3.6 percent deal achieved was “significantly lower than what was achievable,” he insisted.

If the directive on the European minimum wage was in effect, minimum wage talks would take 50 percent of the average wage or 60 percent of the median wage as a starting point, he said.

The ETUC campaign also aims to have as many EU employees as possible protected by collective agreement, Kordas noted. Currently, some 20 percent of Hungarian employees have a collective agreement, while the directive says the aim should be 70 percent, he said. The government, employers and trade unions are equally responsible for that goal, he said.

In response, ruling Fidesz accused Dobrev of “tricking” her voters, saying that her words about the European minimum wage had been denied, even in Brussels.

While in power, the left presided over the shedding of 200,000 jobs and it deprived employees of an amount worth a monthly wage, it said.

“It was solely [ex-premier Ferenc] Gyurcsany and the left wing that brought about mass unemployment and economic decline in Hungary,” Fidesz said.

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