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8 Marts 2016

Yes to a safeguarded Nordic labour market model and no to a European minimum wage

During the crisis and also in its aftermath - when several countries are still facing severe economic problems and an extremely high unemployment – there have been extensive attacks on the collective bargaining system and the autonomy of the social partners. Behind the attacks have been both national governments and the Trojka (the European Commission, European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund). As regards to the latter, the attacks have often been a prerequisite for the granting of new loans and other support. It has been in the form of demands for reforms, among others on the labour market. Interference in collective negotiations and collective agreements and also in the trade unions' autonomy and rights has also been part of the attacks. A very recent and serious example of an attack on collective agreements and the social partners’ autonomy has been shown from the Finnish Government.

On efficient labour markets autonomous social partners – from the employees and the employers’ side - act according to a set of rules that have been developed over several decades and which are generally respected also by the authorities. Collective agreements are the foundations of this relationship and the most important tool to safeguard the workers. The autonomy of the social partners to bargain and set wages collectively is the key. We have to fight attacks on the labour market system and on the autonomy of the social partners, in order to safeguard a system which guarantee fair treatment and protection for all employees in the Nordic countries and which has also shown to be effective in order to discover and prevent social dumping.

The discussion on minimum wages on the European labour market is on-going. It is partly based on the need for a tool to prevent social dumping and at the same time secure the lowest paid workers a salary they can live on. The attitude to the model of minimum wages varies among the European countries: Should it be a common European minimum wage or should it be national minimum wages? Should the minimum wages be negotiated between the social partners on the labour market or as a tripartite negotiation and should the result of this be enacted- or should the minimum wage be set solely by law? Is there in the respective country a need for a minimum wage in the first place? In some countries, the whole collective agreement system rests on the minimum wage. In others it plays a minor or no role.

From the Nordic point of view it is clear that minimum wages must remain in the national sphere; a common European minimum wage is totally unacceptable. It is also clear that in countries where the social partners want a minimum wage this should be set in accordance with the national conditions and practices.

The Nordic countries have settled for binding wage contracts for different branches depending on their economic capacity, level of difficulty and job characteristics which in practice have secured a minimum income level in each job and profession. The Nordic countries have successfully achieved some of the best solutions for the lowest paid in Europe without a minimum wage. There is still a long way to go and we have new challenges from social dumping, but we do not find a minimum wage system to be the appropriate tool for us in this task. Instead, there is a fear that a minimum wage can lead to poorer results of the collective bargaining and be a threat to the right to negotiate.

We support other European countries in their choice of model and their fights for a decent minimum wage, if they chose to go this way. We also vehemently oppose the wide-spread attacks on collective bargaining autonomy and coverage. The right to free collective bargaining is a fundamental labour right.