The question of the minimum wage returned to the top of the agendas of the social partners and politics last Friday, thanks to a debate at Futura 2021. On the stage of the three days organized by the CGIL, the positions of the general secretary Maurizio Landini and those of the leaders of the M5S and the Party Democrat, Giuseppe Conte and Enrico Letta, seemed to get closer. Pressures from Europe are also bringing the issue back to the fore (the European Council is seeking mediation to arrive at defining a directive that the States should then transpose). The obstacles on the way to the minimum wage, however, remain numerous.
1 How much should it amount to? And who would have to define it?
The issue of the minimum wage has been brought to the fore by poor work: employees who, despite working full time, have wages that are not aligned with the cost of living. A phenomenon exacerbated by the 2008 crisis. Since 2013, the minimum wage has become one of the flagships of the M5S, together with the Citizenship Income. And it still remains so: recently the former Minister of Labor Nunzia Catalfo filed a new bill in the Senate, an update of a text presented in 2019. Also in 2019, in the Senate, the Democratic Party also presented a bill. The minimum wage recipes of M5S and the Democratic Party, however, have always been different. For the M5S the minimum wage must be defined by the parliament by law: hence the proposal of 9 euros gross. The text of the Democratic Party led by Zingaretti instead gave the social partners time to agree on the criteria for measuring their representation. Only in the event of no agreement would the minimum wage be lowered from above.
2 What prevents trade unions and companies from setting the minimum wage?
Strong opposition from the social partners contributed to putting the minimum wage dossier at the bottom of political priorities. From the CGIL to Confindustria: all consider the imposition of minimums by law a delegitimation. And they raise: We define the minimums with national contracts. The problem is that today there are 985 national contracts. And they continue to increase. Contracts defining the minimum wage should be those signed by representative associations. The trade unions in 2014 shared the criteria for being measured with an agreement. But the agreement has never been applied. The employers’ associations have not even identified the criteria to date. A point of reference could be those with which the associations weigh themselves in the Chambers of Commerce.
3 What are the sectors with the highest number of pirate contracts?
In 2016 the contracts were 780 today they are 985. The contracts have multiplied above all in the trade: here five years ago there were 189 today they are 274. Less than half of the 985 national collective agreements are declared to INPS.
4 Did the obstacles end here?
No. Article 39 of the Constitution says that only registered trade unions can enter into contracts with validity erga omnes. There is debate over whether the erga omnes extension of only the contractual minimums contained in agreements signed by unregistered trade unions could be compatible with the Constitution.
5 How have other European countries defined the issue?
Twenty-one out of 27 states have introduced minimum wages. Germany has had it since 2015 and in the SPD program there is its increase to 12 euros per hour. In addition to Italy, there is no minimum wage in Scandinavian countries where, as in Italy, national collective agreements cover the vast majority of workers.