The proposed directive2 now belongs to the national governments of the EU Member States and the European Parliament, so it is still too early to say that this directive will have sufficient support to be adopted. It is reasonable to think that national governments will try to avoid the adoption of the directive, when the European Parliament will probably be much more supportive of this proposal. If adopted and when, the directive must be transposed into the national laws of each Member State within two years. The draft directive on the minimum wage is a decisive first step, but we must go further towards a social Europe. The European Parliament believes that the proposed directive is important to deal with the negative economic effects of the pandemic in Europe. Access to employment and an adequate minimum wage is essential to support a sustainable and inclusive economic recovery. For the first time, the proposed directive would set a minimum target for appropriate tariff setting. All Member States where coverage was less than 70% would be required to develop a national action plan to promote collective bargaining, which would currently be accompanied by 18 of the 27 Member States. In the absence of a clear and common definition of wage adequacy at EU level, it is clear that some Member States are likely to adopt a very restrictive definition that will not promote a real improvement in the level of the minimum wage.
In its impact analysis report, the Commission calculated that an increase in national minimum wages under the double threshold of decency – 60% of the median and 50% of the average wage – would improve the wages of around 25 million workers in Europe. This estimate should be the decisive measure to measure whether the directive is a success or not: either it will actually contribute to the improvement of wages or it will remain a political symbol with no apparent effect. The inclusion in legislation of a more precise definition of the minimum wage will therefore be a central theme of the debates on its adoption. In addition, the series “Evolution of Working Life in Europe: EURWORK`s Annual Retrospective” provides up-to-date information on collective bargaining. Eurofound also draws up a semi-annual report on key developments in working time in the EU and Norway, based on national reports. It provides a general overview of the current state of working time following collective bargaining and complements the database on wages, working time and collective disputes. The proposed directive certainly has the potential to improve the wages of millions of European low-wage workers and strengthen their tariff position. However, to ensure its effectiveness, it is necessary to recognize that much more needs to be done to improve the situation, particularly with regard to more precise and binding criteria for adequate minimum wages and more practical instruments to encourage collective bargaining.
The scope of the directive covers all workers who have an employment contract or employment relationship within the meaning of the law, including a collective agreement or practice in each EU Member State. The directive also applies to workers in atypical forms of employment, including domestic workers, on-demand workers, intermittent workers, coupon employees, “false self-employed”, platform workers, apprentices and apprentices. Collective bargaining, which is at the heart of organized labour relations, takes place in different institutional contexts. National systems differ in the role of collective bargaining and legislation in labour market regulation, in the levels at which negotiations are conducted (intersectoral, cross-sectoral, business and employment, regional, professional) and in the way negotiations at different levels can be linked (joint).