Social Platform

Limitless competition?

We are in Greece today to address the ministers of Employment and Social Affairs during their informal EPSCO meeting. At a time when the crisis is still producing its worst effects such as poverty and unemployment, we come to our political representatives with a crystal clear message: EU countries need to put in place adequate minimum income schemes so that people can live in dignity in what is still the second richest region in the world.

At the same event, Ministers want to also discuss the role of wage setting systems and the reforms of employment protection legislation. Our friends from the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) will be there to address this specific issue. My guess is that they will want to reverse the current trend where real wages have decreased in 18 out of 28 member states since 2009 – down 23% in Greece, 12% in Hungary, over 6% in Spain and Portugal, and over 4% in the Netherlands and UK.

With a quarter of the EU population experiencing poverty and 26 million out of a job, adequate minimum income and minimum wage are essential… and related. We believe that adequate minimum income for those who cannot work or access a decent job is essential for a life in dignity and to participate in society. Minimum income must also serve as a baseline above which minimum wage must be set. Yet too often I hear that in some member states people earn less than what they would get with an adequate minimum income.

This is actually where the story goes wrong: in the name of competitiveness, EU countries have pushed for lower wages in order to adjust to the global market. Social and employment policies have become mere adjustment variables to ensure that each country is cheaper than its neighbour. When listening to some national debates, the fall in wages and social benefits seems to be limitless.

This is where we come in. There are limits, and there is a minimum floor that should not be crashed since we all deserve a dignified life. Our leaders often let global competition outweigh social and employment policies. They should keep in mind that there is a foundation, a floor that sets minimum standards in our society. If global competition forces us to the bottom then fundamental rights should be the opposing force that pushes our social standards upwards for social progress and social justice.

This is why for us, in the two issues that will be discussed with ministers, minimum wage should always be above minimum income if we want to ensure that those who work do not live in poverty.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand – Director

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