By Luc Triangle
It is high time for a pay rise. For years now, wages have been considered as the sole cost adjustment for recovery. But wage cuts and wage moderation did not bring back recovery. They only led to stagnation, increasing inequality, social hardship and poverty. Not a single country that was targeted with these austerity measures has yet recovered. Worse, they are still in the middle of a crisis with domestic consumption levels still up to 25% lower than in 2008.
We have long called for a change of policy. It is now high time for our recipe – a recipe that will work and which is based on enforced internal demand.
To create a “growth model based on wage-led demand”, wage increases should move to the top of the agenda, at European and at national level.
Workers are the ones who have paid the highest price for the crisis – and continue to pay in some countries. The crisis was not caused by citizens and workers, but workers had to foot the bill. Companies and shareholders have recovered, so now it is payback time for workers! It is time for workers to get their recovery!
The public debate has been dominated by a neo-liberal narrative which led people to think that it is unfair to seek a pay rise. We must change people’s attitudes and beliefs. We must instill confidence in workers so that they turn to their employers and their government to demand a wage increase!
The trade unions are not isolated anymore. Some academics, politicians and even the International Monetary Fund are now on our side, advocating a policy shift to support purchasing power and investment. It is now time for European policy-makers and national governments to get on board and make concrete proposals.
In this campaign, addressing the wage gap between regions of Europe and especially between eastern and western parts of Europe is a matter of priority for IndustriAll Europe. It is no longer acceptable that workers in the same company or sector, doing the same job and performing at similar levels of productivity, but based in different Member States, receive different wages. We must get our act together to make progress on upward wage convergence. Setting a minimum wage which guarantees a decent living to every European worker is a step in the right direction.
If we want to achieve equality and fair competition, and tackle social and wage dumping, we need to support upward wage convergence as a matter of urgency!
We also need to focus on strengthening collective bargaining structures, restoring them where they have been destroyed or setting them up where they do not exist. Multi-employer collective bargaining institutions together with strong trade unions are essential to deliver decent wages and working conditions for workers.
There is a real alternative to the disastrous policies of recent years: more domestic demand, quality jobs, and robust collective bargaining structures with high levels of coverage. This is our recipe for a Europe that creates prosperity, welfare and progress for all. This is the Europe we want!
That’s why IndustriAll Europe will be deeply involved in this campaign.
Luc Triangle is General Secretary of IndustriAll Europe http://news.industriall-europe.eu/