Minimum wage directive - how to deliver on collective bargaining rights

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(18 December 2023) With just under a year to go before all member states of the European Union have to transpose the Adequate Minimum Wage Directive (AMWD), EPSU organised an online briefing for affiliates with a particular focus on the new rights in relation to collective bargaining.

Over 60 representatives from EPSU affiliates in 26 countries joined the meeting last week (14 December) to hear presentations from Tea Jarc, confederal secretary at the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) with responsibility for collective bargaining, Ruairi Fitzgerald, senior advisor at the ETUC and Torsten Müller, collective bargaining researcher at the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI).

The Directive became European law in October 2022 and member states have until November 2024 to transpose it into national legislation. Ruairi Fitzgerald gave a short overview of how the AMWD came about, noting that the inclusion of key articles on collective bargaining were an important victory for the ETUC and its affiliates.

The European Commission set up an expert group in March 2023 to discuss issues around the transposition and this brought together representatives of trade unions, employers and member state governments. Ruairi had followed the expert group meetings and outlined some of the key issues that had been raised in relation to:

  • The criteria that should be used to help ensure each national statutory minimum wage (where one exists) is fair and adequate;
  • The definition of worker and confirmation that all civil servants should be covered by the directive;
  • The definition of collective bargaining coverage, the debate around statistics and the concern about ensuring that only collective agreements signed by trade unions are taken into account;
  • The need to ensure a framework for collective bargaining – a requirement that applies to all member states – and the additional requirement to draw up national action plans that only applies to countries where collective bargaining coverage is below 80%; and
  • The affirmation that the current procurement directives allow public authorities to set criteria that would promote collective bargaining among contractors.

Torsten Müller took up the question of the national action plans (NAPs) and explained that this requirement would apply to 19 countries as currently collective bargaining coverage was 80% or above in only eight member states. He noted that in those eight countries, there was a form of state regulated support for collective bargaining (see chart above).

Torsten outlined some suggestions for what the NAPs could include and, while underlining that there could be no “one size fits all” solution, referred to developments in Ireland, Romania and Germany that could provide some inspiration for other countries.

Tea Jarc explained that the ETUC would be closely monitoring how the Directive was being transposed and implemented at national level, coordinating with and providing support to affiliates. The ETUC’s Collective Bargaining and Wage Coordination Committee had already had a first exchange on national initiatives and content for the NAPs and this would be a regular item on the committee’s agenda.

EPSU would also be active around the directive and one of its first steps was a European Commission-funded project that was launched last month and was being led by the Warsaw-based ISP research organisation. Dominik Owcarek of the ISP outlined the main elements of the project that would cover all 11 central and Eastern European countries in the EU, plus Serbia. The project focuses on three sectors – public administration, care and waste – and while a substantial amount of the work would be research based, there were also plans to organise five workshops that would provide an opportunity for EPSU affiliates to exchange and learn from one another.

EPSU general secretary Jan Willem Goudriaan stressed the importance of the directive and the potential it provides for strengthening and extending collective bargaining coverage in public services and he urged all affiliate to engage in the process now.

Richard Pond, collective bargaining officer at EPSU, acknowledged the new rights delivered by the directive. He added, however, that in some countries groups of civil servants and public service workers were currently denied the right to collective bargaining and that this had to be addressed as the directive is implemented.

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