Pressure on the Danish model as EU pushes for minimum wage

EU president’s message is clear: Denmark should get into line

Denmark is one of just six EU member states that does not have a minimum wage. But experts believe that within the next five years, the EU will have made a minimum wage compulsory across the union and that Denmark should get ready to adapt, Ugebrevet A4 reports.

Ulla Tornæs, the vice chairperson of the European Parliament’s committee on employment and social affairs, noted that the political will in Brussels is strong. “A European minimum wage is definitely coming,” she said.

“European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker has been very clear in his speeches and said several times that he wants all EU member states to introduce a minimum wage.”

Danish model under threat
There is, however, also intense resistance in Denmark to the prospect, which some believe would jeopardise the so-called Danish model, whereby remuneration and working conditions are negotiated by workers’ unions and employers’ unions to reach collective agreements.

Tornæs told Ugebrevet A4 that she wants to retain the Danish model. “One of my main tasks on the committee on employment and social affairs will be to fight for a special arrangement that respects how we have a particular negotiation model,” she explained.

Wishful thinking
Lizette Risgaard, the vice president of the trade union organisation LO, is more direct in her rejection of the EU’s apparent intention to impose a minimum wage on Denmark. “The president of the commission can wish for a European minimum wage for Christmas this year and next year and next year again,” she said.

“It will never be a good Christmas for Jean-Claude Juncker because the wish for a minimum wage in the EU will never be granted.”

But Marlene Wind, the head of Copenhagen University’s centre for European politics, warns against brushing off the signals coming from Brussels. “The need for a minimum wage comes as a response to the growing dissatisfaction there has been in the wake of the free movement of labour in recent years,” she explained.

“And there’s no point in sitting back and saying that you don’t like it or that you don’t believe in it.”

A question of competence
Other politicians, such as Ole Christensen, an MEP for Socialdemokraterne, are doubtful about whether the EU has the competence to impose a minimum wage on member states.

“Wages are the member states' own responsibility,” Christensen said. “Juncker’s proposal isn’t realistic.”