Italy is just one of a handful of countries not covered in a new EU minimum wage directive to “guarantee decent living standards for workers”.
The European Parliament approved the deal overnight on Monday “to set adequate minimum wages”, which will apply to EU workers who have an employment contract.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the agreement on Tuesday, stating that the rules “will protect the dignity of work and make sure that work pays”.
In the Political Guidelines, we promised a law to ensure fair minimum wages in the EU.
With today’s political agreement about our proposal on adequate minimum wages, we deliver.
The new rules will protect the dignity of work and make sure that work pays. pic.twitter.com/vx1kRDfIYL
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) June 7, 2022
Italy’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Luigi Di Maio, described the deal as a “historic EU agreement” in a Facebook post, adding that Italy must follow suit.
Di Maio has been pushing for a minimum wage in Italy for several years, calling it a “priority measure” back in 2019.
“Now the minimum wage must become a reality in Italy, where millions of Italians still receive wages below €9 per hour. We need a dignified law for those workers who carry the country forward,” he wrote in his latest post on the subject.
He nodded to the populist Italian political party ‘Movimento 5 Stelle’ (M5S), who have been “supporting it for a long time and is fighting for it in parliament”.
The Minister of Agricultural Policies also wrote in a Facebook post: “This country needs a minimum wage, which must be approved in this legislature.”
He referred to the “scandalous” Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) data, revealing how Italy’s salaries are at the bottom of the European table.
“The 5 Star Movement has been asking for (the minimum wage) for nine years now, an appeal that has gone unheeded by almost all the other political forces, which over the years have obstructed this fundamental reform of civilisation,” he added.
For now, it will be up to the Italian government to introduce a minimum wage, as EU leaders have indicated that they will not enforce the rule – as the law doesn’t oblige member states to introduce a minimum wage.
“We will not impose a minimum wage on Italy, that is not the point,” said EU Labour Commissioner Nicolas Schmit at a press conference.
“I am highly confident that the Italian government and the social partners will reach a good agreement to strengthen collective bargaining, especially for the less well protected, and, in the end, they will come to the conclusion that it could be important to introduce a minimum-wage system in Italy.
“But it is down to the Italian government and the social partners to do it,” he added.
Italy is one of six countries, including Austria, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, that doesn’t have a minimum wage law in place.
Wage levels are instead determined through collective bargaining, which should not be “penalised”, according to the Minister of Economic Development Gancarlo Girgetti.
“We have very, very advanced second-level bargaining and therefore in some way this instrument must not penalise forms that we have successfully experimented with,” he stated.
Findings have showed that Italy’s salaries have continued to decline, with the country recording the biggest wage drop in the EU at the end of last year, following the effects of the pandemic.
The data revealed Italy’s large number of workers on part-time and short-term contracts, which continues to impact Italy’s economy.