Wage differences in Europe have to narrow, European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) General Secretary Luca Visentini said in his remarks at the 8th congress of the Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) in Tallinn on Friday.
Visentini stressed the importance of social dialogue, collective negotiations and the need to reach a fair minimum wage in all countries. He also said he believes that Europe needs strong trade unions now more than ever before.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that in a situation where labor productivity in Estonia is 80 percent of Germany's level, wages are only at 30-40 percent thereof," the secretary general said according to a press release published by the EAKL. "Wage differences in Europe must decrease, and work conditions must improve."
The EU is discussing regulations regarding the minimum wage for the first time, he highlighted, adding that only by raising wages can a sustainable, social Europe be ensured, investments made in people, and good jobs created.
Minister: Minimum wage should equal 40 percent of average
In his own address to the congress, Minister of Social Affairs Tanel Kiik (Centre) said that the minimum wage in Estonia should account for 40 percent of the average monthly income.
Kiik underlined the importance of cooperation between trade unions, employers and the government, and commended the EAKL for its cooperation with European trade unions.
"The labor market has changed, and if we increase flexibility on one hand, we must also make sure that the development of the economy and the labor market is sustainable, and that decisions are made in such a way that they don't need to be changed as soon as the situation on the labor market changes," the minister said in a press release.
The EAKL congress takes place every four years. Visentini and Kiik were among the top speakers at Friday's event.
Incumbent Peep Peterson is the sole candidate nominated for the position of EAKL chairman ahead of Friday's vote.
Editor: Aili Vahtla