Fair pay in Eastern Europe: to eat, to live, to stay

Despite steady economic growth across Eastern Europe over the past decades, in work-poverty is rampant and income inequality has increased. Poor working and living conditions are leading many people within the region to emigrate in order to seek better opportunities, with major consequences in terms of labour shortages and the sustainability of public finances. While all countries in the region have minimum wages, they tend to be extremely low and inadequate in affording workers and their families a decent life. Wage theft affects many workers in the region – with arrears in wage payments and non-compliance in paying minimum wages a regular occurrence in some countries.

With the Fair Pay for Eastern Europe: to eat, to live, to stay campaign, unions across the region are calling on governments to set minimum wage floors that would allow workers and their families to live in dignity, combined with adequate comprehensive social protection systems.

Unions insist that regional coordination on wages is necessary. Given the increasing economic integration across Europe, coordination between European countries on wages can help to stop downward competition on the basis of wages and social dumping, stem the tide of massive emigration from Eastern Europe and counter skills depletion.

The European Union must support a pay rise, and unions are calling on it to adapt its policies and instruments to better support its Member States achieve decent statutory minimum wages and strengthened collective bargaining. For those States outside the European Union, it must equally ensure that fair wages and decent work are properly considered within its trade and association agreements, as well as within enlargement processes.