July 27, 2021

Scandinavians refuse to have the European minimum wage imposed on them

While he is not yet talking about a “Swexit”, Torbjörn Johansson, responsible for collective agreements at the Swedish trade union center LO, threw a serious stone in the pond on 19 May. In a newspaper interview The work, he argues that Swedish unions must “Start to wonder if joining the European Union was a good decision”. At issue: the draft European directive on minimum wages.

In Sweden, as in Denmark, neither the unions nor the employers want it. They have the support of the entire political class, unanimous in its rejection of a minimum wage regulated by law. “We are, of course, in favor of a social Europe and we are convinced that the agenda has good intentions in this regard. But the only way for us to accept this directive is for us to be completely excluded ”, summarizes Therese Guovelin, vice-president of LO.

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For months the Danish and Swedish social partners have campaigned against what they see as a threat to the Scandinavian economic and social model. In both countries, there is no minimum income registered in the law: the level of wages is regulated within the framework of collective agreements, negotiated by the social partners, without political intervention. In Sweden and Denmark, respectively 90% and 80% of jobs are covered by these agreements.

A painful memory

A minimum wage, imposed by law, would have serious consequences, according to Therese Guovelin: “This will inevitably weaken our model of parity negotiation. We risk seeing an increasing intervention of the State which, according to the directive, must monitor its application and report to Brussels. “ And even if the specificity of the Scandinavian model is recognized by the European Commission, “Nothing guarantees an action before the European Court of Justice which will be able to impose its decision”.

“The European Union does not have to interfere with the level of remuneration in the member states”, Therese Guovelin, vice-president of the Swedish union LO

In Sweden, the social partners have painful memories of the Laval affair. On November 18, 2007, the European Court of Justice ruled that the blockade of a construction site by Swedish unions, to force a Latvian entrepreneur to sign collective bargaining, was illegal under European rules on the freedom to provide workers. services. “We cannot risk finding ourselves in the same situation”, notes Gabriella Sebardt, director of social affairs at the Confederation of Swedish Industries.

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