Estonia: Wide gulf between the social partners on minimum wage increase

Negotiations on the minimum wage begin, but the social partners have failed to find common ground so far.

Bargaining between the Estonian Trade Union Confederation (EAKL) and the Estonian Employers’ Confederation (ETTK) to determine the national statutory minimum wage for the coming year has run aground. The social partners first met in April, where they decided not to invite the government to the initial discussions.

EAKL has argued that expectations were raised very high in the debate over the national minimum wage during parliamentary elections; hence, it initially proposed an increase from the current €390 to €560 from 2016, half of the average national wage. ETTK backed a much lower increase of €417 from 2016, rising to €448 from 2017. At another meeting on 26 May, EAKL put forward a new proposal: an increase to €488 from 2016 and to €609 from 2017. While ETTK agreed that increasing the minimum wage was important to improve the situation of low-wage earners, the confederation argued that it could not be increased dramatically as it could threaten companies that employ low-wage earners. The social partners had wanted to come to an agreement before July, but on 19 June, EAKL approached the National Conciliator because of the gulf between the two sides and the failure of the bipartite negotiations to make progress.

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