Politics and Analysis

Social partners in Denmark and Sweden in final appeal to stay united throughout the negotiations on EU minimum wage

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Any concession to the European Parliament in the negotiations on a European minimum wage would be a slippery slope for the Danish and Swedish models. Therefore, Danish and Swedish employers’ and workers’ representatives urge the EU to drop the idea.

Negotiations are currently taking place between the EU institutions – Council, Parliament and Commission - on a minimum wage directive. The three institutions’ positions appear to be far apart from each other, but there is no doubt that the French EU Presidency is working hard to reach an agreement in a very short timeframe. Danish and Swedish organisations have made their stance clear ever since it first became apparent that a proposal was on its way: the EU should not legislate on pay.

Common ground in Denmark and Sweden

Our labour market models have worked well for more than a century. Wages are the cornerstone of the negotiations between employers and trade unions on agreements that regulate our labour-market models. These models have ensured good wages, high employment and strong competitiveness. We have no wish to jeopardise these results. We recognise that there are challenges and that in many other places people cannot live on their wages. However, we are convinced that EU legislation is not the best way to meet these challenges.

The Danish and Swedish trade unions, employers’ associations and governments all agree on this issue. Thanks to close co-operation between the parties – and between the Danish and Swedish governments – we have managed to weed out the most problematic parts in the Council’s position.

No to EU intervention

This work in no way changes the fact that we find the directive undesirable. In fact, it emphasises that when push comes to shove, we are united in protecting our Nordic models. No matter how a directive is drafted, there can be no bulletproof guarantees regarding how the European Court of Justice will interpret it.

We sincerely hope and wish that both the Danish and Swedish governments will stick to their stated positions and work closely with each other and with the social partners in their respective countries. We have faith that this will be the case, as it is the only path that makes sense. The parliaments in both Stockholm and Copenhagen have clearly stated that they do not wish to see EU interference in wages.

Damage to the Danish and Swedish models

One concern is that, while it holds the Presidency, France will make concessions to the European Parliament in order to achieve a quick result. The Parliament’s position is very far-reaching and, if implemented, its proposals would have detrimental effects on our labour-market models. For that reason, it is important that the Member States do not cede ground. Equally, it is important that France stands firm and does not offer concessions, even though it would like to achieve a definitive result during its Presidency. We would, however, also like to draw attention to the fact that both Danish and Swedish MEPs have made outstanding efforts to oppose the proposal for EU legislation on wages.

Thank you for ’damage control’

According to the Treaty of Lisbon, the EU does not have the power to intervene in wage issues. Nor is it in any way appropriate for the EU to adopt legislation that interferes with well-run labour-market models as to wage formation or collective agreements. Any concession to the European Parliament during the negotiations would be a slippery slope.

We would therefore like to thank the Danish and Swedish governments, MPs and MEPs for listening to and involving social partners in the work on the EU minimum wage proposal. We would also like to thank them for all their efforts to unite like-minded countries and for proactively attempting to ensure that the proposal that forms the basis for the Council’s position to a large degree has been formulated in such a way as to minimise potential damage to our models. We would not have come this far had there not been broad agreement and close working relations between our governments and between the social partners at Scandinavian level.

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