MADRID – The Spanish socialist trade union UGT points out low wages prevent 35 million people in the European Union from going on holiday. Of this number, 4.7 million of them are in Spain. The second-worst country in Europe. ‘Holiday inequality’ in Spain has also increased by 1.7%.
In total, 28% of EU citizens cannot afford a week’s holiday away from home. Among those living on an income below the poverty threshold, this percentage even rises to almost 60%. Many of those earning less are unemployed or retired. But there are millions of low-paid workers, many of whom earn the legal minimum wage.
Relationship between wages and leisure
During the campaign to strengthen the EU Wage Directive, ETUC and the European Trade Union Institute (ETUI) analysed data from Eurostat. This was to determine the relationship between low pay and the leisure opportunities of low-wage workers. The conclusions of the study underline the urgency of the UGT’s main demands regarding the minimum wage. According to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) report, the UGT warns that Spain is the second EU country with the most residents unable to afford holidays.
The union believes holidays should not be a luxury for the ‘happy few´. And believes it is ‘crucial’ the EU Minimum Wage Directive is tightened so that working people do not have to live in poverty. Therefore, raising the minimum wage is urgent and a matter of justice, both from a labour and social viewpoint. The UGT has repeatedly urged the Spanish government to increase the Spanish legal minimum wage (SMI). But despite acceleration of the economic recovery after the pandemic crisis, the government insists on fuelling structural inequalities in Spain. The UGT and the ETUC are calling for a ‘decency threshold’. This would guarantee minimum wages never fall below 60% of the average wage. And consequently, would affect more than 24 million people. It would also make collective bargaining a routine part of labour relations to ensure truly fair wages for all.
The UGT echoes the words of ETUC Deputy Secretary-General Esther Lynch. He said ‘the increase in holiday inequality shows that the benefits of economic growth in Europe over the past decade have not been fairly shared’. Furthermore, this has meant millions of working people have not had the right to enjoy time with friends and family. The UGT and ETUC believe holiday inequality should be included in the studies of the draft EU directive on adequate minimum wages and collective bargaining. This directive should be examined by the European Parliament after the summer as it will give an even more accurate picture of the situation of millions of Europeans.