France on Wednesday (15 January) welcomed a minimum wage deal in the German meat industry after accusing it last year of hiring cheap labour and helping to cause a crisis in the French slaughterhouse sector which saw a wave of closures.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel agreed with her new coalition partners last month to introduce a minimum wage but doubts remained on how the deal would apply to the farm sector.
Trade union NGG and employers' group ANG said on Tuesday they had agreed on a minimum wage for the approximately 80,000 employees of the German meat sector.
"This is good news for German workers, who will see their work better paid, but also for French employees," French Farm Minister Stephane Le Foll said in a statement.
"Through this concrete step, the German food industry will return to a level of labour costs which will allow more balanced competition between European partners," he said.
The deal implies a minimum wage of €7.75 per hour from July 1 which would rise to €8 per hour starting from Dec. 1, below an overall minimum wage planned from 2015 at €8.50 per hour. In October 2015, workers in the meat sector will see their minimum rate rise above average to €8.60/h and to €8.75/h from December 2016.
France's meat industry had blamed German competitors for hiring abattoir workers cheaply from eastern Europe while French employers paid a legal minimum wage.
NGG last year cited one example of Romanian and Bulgarian workers being paid €176 per month in the southeastern region of Bavaria.
"This measure (on minimum wage) is in line with European social justice, in order to end social dumping which transforms employees into misery workers and strongly penalises France's agribusiness and, eventually, all European industries," French Food Industry Minister Guillaume Garot said.