• Germany edition
 
French: Low German wages are unfair on us
Photo: DPA

French: Low German wages are unfair on us

Published: 20 Sep 2013 08:43 GMT+02:00
Updated: 20 Sep 2013 08:43 GMT+02:00

France’s consumer affairs minister Benoît Hamon slammed Germany’s policy of keeping pay artificially low for being “unfair” on France.

Speaking to the BBC on a visit to an Optic 2000 factory, which creates eyewear in France, Hamon said “some countries in Europe are getting around employment directives and underpaying their workers.”

Hamon lamented Germany’s wage policy, which has helped keep the cost of German products down compared to “Made in France” goods.

"I want Germany to have a social policy where competitiveness doesn't rely on jobs paying €400 a month," he said.

"I want Germany not to base its agricultural economy on salaries of seven euros an hour. That's what I want from the next German government.

"I want it to play fair with an economic model that isn't based on a competition for who can pay workers the least.

"We are pitting workers at seven euros against those who earn 10, 11 or 14 an hour. That can't work within the same territory. It's not possible. It can't work," Hamon said.

France is struggling to kick-start its economy and the Socialist government has made a big push to promote the “Made in France” brand to try to boost its manufacturing industry.

But the high cost of wages compared to its neighbours on the other side of the Rhine river means France has lost its competitive edge to Germany in recent years.

Hamon does have a history of launching barbs at Germany. Earlier this year, he targeted Chancellor Angela Merkel, claiming her austerity policy had failed.

Should Germany introduce a national minimum wage? Take part in our debate here

Thomas Klau from the European Council on Foreign Relations in Paris told The Local that Hamon does have a fair point when it comes to wage policies.

“There are examples in certain industries where low wages have helped give German firms an advantage over French ones, such as abattoirs.

“They have paid mainly temporary migrants from Eastern Europe €5 an hour to work and live in conditions of extreme poverty. But under French law, abattoirs are not allowed to pay such miserly wages, which has helped the ones in Germany to flourish.

“In an area like the Eurozone the wage policies of each country can have a heavy impact in other countries.

“This means the agreement that member states are free to compete with each other is often a race to the bottom, where working conditions, for example, are not compatible with the kind of Europe we want," Klau said.

With Germany facing elections on Sunday and current Chancellor Angela Merkel’s main opponent Peer Steinbrück vowing to introduce a statutory, national minimum wage, Hamon’s attack appears perfectly timed.

Ben McPartland

The Local (news@thelocal.de)

Don't miss...X
Left Right

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Germany ready to send arms to Iraqi Kurds
Usula van der Leyen and Frank-Walter Steinmeier. Photo: DPA

Germany ready to send arms to Iraqi Kurds

Germany is ready to send weapons to support Iraqi Kurds in their battle against the "barbaric" jihadist militants of the Islamic State, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said Wednesday. READ  

The Local List
10 things to do before summer is really over
Photo: DPA

10 things to do before summer is really over

The German weather service (DWD) is blaming "Wild Wilma" for blanketing the country in cooler temperatures, but we know it's going to get a lot colder before the end of summer. This week's Local List challenges you to take advantage before autumn really sets in. READ  

Energy policy falls foul of federal auditors
Lightning illuminates the sky above a wind turbine. Photo: DPA

Energy policy falls foul of federal auditors

The Federal Court of Auditors (BRH) has sharply criticized Chancellor Angela Merkel's energy policy, saying that the previous coalition government failed to produce adequate financial plans. READ  

China orders German's execution for murders
A paramilitary guard stands inside Beijing's No.1 Detention Centre. Photo: DPA

China orders German's execution for murders

Update: A German man has been condemned to death in China for murdering his ex-girlfriend and her partner in a frenzied attack, it was reported on Wednesday. READ  

German aid planes to Iraq delayed
All filled up and nowhere to go. Photo: DPA

German aid planes to Iraq delayed

A German military flight to the conflict-addled region in northern Iraq has been delayed because Turkey denied landing permission for the layover at Incirlik airbase, according to a spokesman for the air force. READ  

Bomb shuts down A3 motorway
Photo: DPA

Bomb shuts down A3 motorway

A controlled detonation of a 500-kg bomb from the Second World War has left a 20-metre-wide crater in the middle of one of Germany's busiest traffic corridors on Tuesday night. READ  

Saxony schools get top marks
Photo: DPA

Saxony schools get top marks

A country-wide analysis has shown that Saxony has the best schools and Berlin has a lot of homework to do. READ  

Police free hedgehog, natural order restored
Pot luck for the Offenburg hedgehog. Photo: DPA

Police free hedgehog, natural order restored

Officers patrolling in Baden-Württemberg were confronted by a self-imprisoned hedgehog. READ  

BER capacity already 'too small' at 2016 launch
Overdue, overgrown. BER site stands idle amid delays. Photo: DPA

BER capacity already 'too small' at 2016 launch

The delay-hobbled Berlin Brandenburg Airport (BER) will already be overburdened when - or if - it opens in 2016 as passenger volume exceeds initial forecasts, it was reported on Tuesday. READ  

Stomach bug behind Berlin 'Ebola' scare
A doctor at the Job Centre in Berlin. Photo:DPA

Stomach bug behind Berlin 'Ebola' scare

Update: Around 600 people were held for several hours in emergency quarantine at a Berlin Job Centre on Tuesday after a West African woman collapsed with Ebola-like symptoms. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Culture
Sprechen Sie Deutsch? 10 reasons why you should.
Photo: DPA
National
Berlin's senate puts the brakes on Über
Photo: DPA
Gallery
The mysteries of Berlin's abandoned theme park
Photo: DPA
Culture
How I deal with my German Hausmeister
Photo: Ingrid Eulenfan/flickr
Gallery
Nine German treats you'll want to eat right now (and one you won't)
Photo: DPA
Society
Who's getting German citizenship?
Photo: DPA
Culture
How World War I changed Germany forever
Photo: APA/DPA
Gallery
The 12 best words in Austrian German
Photo: DPA
Society
'Look at those German shanty towns!'
Photo: Europeana.de 1914 - 1918
Gallery
A German soldier's life behind WWI lines
Education
Raising the bar for law & business in Germany
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
Photo: DPA
Features
The Local List Archive - Your guide to all things German
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
Sponsored Article
Bilingual school turning education on its head
Latest news from The Local in Austria

More news from Austria at thelocal.at

Latest news from The Local in Switzerland

More news from Switzerland at thelocal.ch

Latest news from The Local in Denmark

More news from Denmark at thelocal.dk

Latest news from The Local in Spain

More news from Spain at thelocal.es

Latest news from The Local in France

More news from France at thelocal.fr

Latest news from The Local in Italy

More news from Italy at thelocal.it

Latest news from The Local in Norway

More news from Norway at thelocal.no

Latest news from The Local in Sweden

More news from Sweden at thelocal.se

3,315
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd