Minister expects German minimum wage

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German Labour Minister Ursula von der Leyen said that the introduction of an across-the-board minimum wage was only a matter of time in Europe's top economy, in an interview to be published Monday.

"I am convinced that we, in the short or the long run, will have a minimum wage in all sectors," she told news weekly Der Spiegel.

She said the minimum wage, which would mark a fundamental change in German industrial policy, would have to be based on an agreement between employers and employees and not imposed by the state.

"We must not allow the amount of a general minimum wage to become a political football," she said.

Von der Leyen seized on an initiative launched by the CDA employees' wing of her conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU), the party led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

The CDA plans at a party congress in November to present the proposal for a legal minimum wage, which Der Spiegel said was also gaining support in the Free Democratic Party, the junior partner in Merkel's centre-right coalition.

However the employers' wing of the CDU dismissed the initiative as a job-killer.

"There will be no across-the-board legal minimum wage under this coalition," a deputy leader of the party, Michael Fuchs, told Der Spiegel.

The centre-right coalition has until now opposed a single minimum wage, saying that individual sectors should continue to set salary agreements with their employees based on market conditions.

Advocates argue that many industries, particularly in the service sector, consistently fail to pay their workers a living wage and require a statutory minimum.

The head of the Verdi service sector union, Frank Bsirske, told the daily Tagesspiegel to be published Monday that he was optimistic for a change in policy.

He noted that with seven million Germans in low-wage, part-time jobs and another one million in temporary jobs, there was a pressing need for action.

"The number of advocates, even in the ranks of the CDU, is rising," he said.

"The societal pressure is so big that politicians have to react."

© 2011 AFP

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