The European Union has set new rules that promote statutory “adequate” minimum wages. Cloaked in what appears to be a “social reform”, the new directive[1] on minimum wages jeopardises the system of Collective Bargaining Agreements (CBA) in countries where they still prevail.

Member countries where wages are set through collective bargaining agreements must take steps towards a statutory minimum wage if less than 80 per cent of the workers and employees are covered by a CBA.

In a majority of the countries of Europe, national legislation on a minimum wage already exists. In Spain and other countries, this has by no means secured workers not covered by a CBA an adequate income or a decent standard of living. Conversely, the minimum wage frequently is considered a salary “ceiling” rather than a “floor”.

Minimum wages set by law and a European Labour Authority that imposes whatever “labour standards” the EU might decide, are a disguised attack on the workers of Europe, their trade unions and the system of collective bargaining. A strong and class-conscious trade union movement is pivotal in the struggle against cutbacks in wages and pensions, defending jobs and rejecting longer working days and precarious work.

Our real income is declining every day. While conducting their aggressive politics for war, the ruling class demand that the workers of Europe prepare themselves for further “sacrifices”. This is “the price we must pay” for the war in Ukraine, as NATO Secretary general Jens Stoltenberg has put it. Russian workers are hearing similar “patriotic” lies from the aggressors in Moscow. Increased military spending promotes inflation and is financed by budget cutbacks on welfare and social benefits.

Today, the working people of Europe are struggling to survive due to towering inflation and soaring energy and food prices, forcing them to choose whether to starve or to freeze in the approaching winter months. Sanctions, war and militarism are aggravating the situation on all fields.

In this situation, statutory state imposed minimum wages that never keep up with inflation, help the capitalists extend their profits and let the working class pay for imperialist war in Ukraine and other war preparations.

We refuse to pay for the emerging economic crisis accelerated by aggressive war politics and armaments race, threatening to destroy us and our countries. Instead, it is time to breach this maximum profit system that is heading mankind towards disaster.

No substantial EU legislation has ever been to the benefit of the working class in Europe. The neo-liberal concept of the European labour market, where workers are forced to compete among themselves at home and abroad to “freely” undercut the price of labour power, is detrimental to the working class and strong trade unions. In general, statutory minimum wages will not stop, but more often accelerate this race to the bottom.

Hard times require harder and broader struggle to defend our economic and political interests! Only strong and independent class organisations, struggle and international solidarity can ensure workers an income above the poverty line and open perspectives to a better future, putting an end and forever the wage labour system.

October 2022

European parties and organisations that are members of the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organisations (CIPOML):

Organization for the Construction of the Communist Workers Party of Germany (Arbeit Zukunft)

Communist Party of Albania

Communist Workers’ Party of Denmark – APK;

Communist Party of Spain (Marxist-Leninist) – PCE (m-l);

Workers’ Communist Party of France

Communist Platform of Italy

Labour Party (EMEP), Turkey,

Movement for the Reorganisation of the Communist Party of Greece 1918-1955 (Anasintaxi)

and the Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Group, Norway