Let’s talk about the minimum wage for workers

For some days in Italy we have returned to talk about the possibility of introducing a legal minimum wage for workers, after both the secretary of the Democratic Party Enrico Letta and the leader of the 5 Star Movement Giuseppe Conte, as well as several other politicians, l ‘they defined it as one of the objectives of their economic policy. The fact that the proposal has the support of the leaders of the two main parties that make up the government is remarkable, but it is not certain that this will be enough to make it happen, especially since it is not one of the economic priorities of Prime Minister Mario Draghi.

The proposal to introduce a minimum wage – that is, a minimum amount that must be paid for each hour of work for which a minimum wage is not already provided for by national collective agreements – periodically re-emerges in the political debate. Matteo Renzi had advanced it in 2018, when he was secretary of the PD, then his successor Nicola Zingaretti the following year, and in both cases nothing had been done.

The proposal was resumed this week by the secretary of the CGIL Maurizio Landini, who during an event organized by his union in Bologna said that the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic risk causing a sharp decline in wages, and therefore it is necessary to find systems guarantee of workers.

Letta and Conte also took part in the Bologna event: both agreed with the opportunity to introduce a minimum wage. Letta said that “it is time to introduce the debate on the minimum wage, it is a European theme”, while Conte called it “a battle we are convinced of”.

Pasquale Tridico, the president of INPS, also spoke about the issue on Saturday. He said that “the minimum wage for young people is crucial, as well as for women,” he added that its introduction could lead to increased productivity, and was also the only one to propose setting a minimum wage. at 9 euros gross per hour.

In Italy today there is no minimum wage (with few exceptions, such as that of agricultural workers). The minimum wages are guaranteed with national collective agreements, that is the agreements signed between trade unions and associations of entrepreneurs with which the minimum wages of workers in the various sectors are established. Italy is one of the countries where coverage of national contracts is more widespread, which concerns about 85% of workers. The minimum wage, therefore, would concern the remaining 15 per cent, made up mainly of workers in the most difficult conditions, whose wages are often much lower than the threshold imagined by Tridico of 9 euros gross per hour.

Although it enjoys the support of many politicians, the proposal to introduce the minimum wage in recent years has often met with a lot of resistance from both employers and trade unions. The former fear that rising labor costs (that is, the total amount of expenses incurred by a company for its workers, which includes wages, taxes and other expenses) will put their companies out of business vis-à-vis foreign ones. According to a 2019 study cited by the Sole 24 Ore, with a minimum wage of 9 euros gross per hour, the average cost of labor would increase by 20 percent.

The trade unions also view the proposal with some suspicion, because they fear that it could lead to a reduction in their involvement in bargaining between workers and companies.

In any case, as he noted Republic, the main problem for supporters of the minimum wage is that for now Draghi does not intend to put it among the priorities of his government’s economic policy. This week the Prime Minister attended the Confindustria Assembly and in a much-quoted speech he spoke of the possibility of creating “an economic, productive, social pact for the country”: among the proposals he made, however, there was no to introduce a minimum wage for workers.

Things could change in the coming months, because there is also an ongoing debate on the minimum wage in the European Union, where the Commission at the end of last year presented a proposal to introduce “adequate minimum wages” across the Union. The proposal is currently being approved, and in June the Minister of Labor Andrea Orlando said he was in favor of its adoption, albeit with some reservations.

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