It is no longer acceptable that workers in the same company or sector, doing the same job, having similar levels of education and skills, and performing at similar levels of productivity, but based in different Member States, receive different wages.
Unfortunately, this did not happen. The enlargement created a win-win situation for companies, especially multinationals, but not for workers. Workers in eastern European countries continue to receive lower wages than those in other European countries. For example:
- While the productivity of a Slovak worker is 73% of a Danish worker, the salary of a Slovak worker represents only 24% of the salary of a Danish worker.
- The productivity of a Hungarian worker is 66% of an Italian worker yet the salary of a Hungarian worker represents only 27% of that of an Italian worker.
The productivity of a Czech worker is 79% of the average labour productivity in the 28 Member States but the salary of a Czech worker represents only 40% of the average salary in the EU.Addressing a workers’ hearing in Bratislava on Thursday 21 September 2017, Luc Triangle, Secretary General of industriAll Europe said, “It is no longer acceptable that workers in the same company or sector, doing the same job, having similar levels of education and skills, and performing at similar levels of productivity, but based in different Member States, receive different wages”. He continued by stating that addressing the wage gap between eastern and western parts of Europe “is a matter of priority for industriAll Europe. At our 2016 Congress in Madrid, we committed to fight for equal pay for equal work throughout Europe”.
IndustriAll Europe acknowledges that this will not be achieved overnight but rather is likely to be a lengthy process requiring political determination from European and national policy-makers as well as from the trade unions, with a potential of being met with strong resistance on the employers’ side.
For industriAll Europe, the key priority lies in defending and further developing collective bargaining in Eastern Europe. Since the onset of the reunification of Europe, industriAll Europe has committed to supporting the consolidation of collective bargaining and the strengthening of social dialogue in the new Member States. However, more needs to be done to support collective bargaining in multinational companies (MNCs) in eastern Europe through organising in companies where the trade unions are not present. IndustriAll Europe is currently working on a new project dedicated to building stronger trade union through transnational cooperation in 50 MNCs.
Secondly, collective bargaining structures need to be strengthened where they exist and built where they do not or where they have been destroyed. Supporting collective bargaining rounds in subsidiaries of MNCs is important but not sufficient. To ensure a more equal distribution of income and higher wage level for all, effective Collective Bargaining Structures need to be established. Wages set at sector-level is the best and the most effective way to restore wage level.
Finally, we need minimum wages that guarantee a decent living. We can no longer accept minimum wages that represent 25% of the national average wage. Member States in central and eastern Europe must shoulder the responsibility and begin to appreciate the quality of their labour force as a key element in their competitiveness and stop viewing “cheap labour costs” as their only competitive edge.
There is no silver bullet to deal with the pay gap between eastern and western Europe. The answers are manifold and we have to tackle all of them at the same time. But one thing is sure: completion of European integration will also come from achieving upward wage convergence in the EU.