PM wants to narrow gap between minimum and average wage

Photo: Tomáš Adamec

Following the first ever joint tripartite meeting of Czech and Slovak representatives on Monday, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said he wanted the Czech Republic to bring the country’s minimum wage to the level of Slovakia’s. This will mean bigger hikes than anticipated.

Photo: Tomáš Adamec
When the Czech Republic and Slovakia parted ways in 1993 wages in the smaller sister state were on average 25 percent less than in the Czech Republic. Since then Slovakia has adopted the euro and today its minimum wage is higher than that in the Czech Republic – at 380 euros (10,260 crowns) compared to the Czech minimum wage of 9,200 crowns.

The Czech prime minister blames the former Czech center-right governments for the discrepancy which he says was caused by the fact that they omitted to raise the minimum wage for a period of six years. Today it amounts to 36 percent of the average wage and the Czech government is pushing for it to reach 40 percent by a 700 crown hike due to go into effect next year bringing it up to 9,900 crowns. In Slovakia the minimum wage is governed by a special law based on economic performance which guarantees minimum regular hikes if tripartite negotiations should fail. Currently it amounts to 43 percent of the average wage and the single-party Social Democrat government of Robert Fico is planning to increase it to from the present 380 to 400 euros next year.

Czech trade unions have long criticized the tight rein on wages that maintains a cheap labour force and the Czech prime minister appears to be receptive to their arguments, saying that with sound economic growth the discrepancy in wages between the old and newer EU member states should be gradually evened out. “Czechs deserve to be as well paid as their counterparts in Germany or Austria,” he noted at Monday’s tripartite meeting.

The government’s plans for the wage sector have come under fire from the opposition. TOP 09 deputy chair and former finance minister Miroslav Kalousek slammed the approved increase in the minimum wage as a “deformation of the labour market” which would give employers fresh problems and result in job losses.

Czech and Slovak tripartite representatives plan to hold regular joint meetings in the future and a meeting of tripartite officials of the Višegrad Group –comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Poland, could take place in the spring of next year.