• 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

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)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
Negotiations restart between GDL and Bahn
Just what is this man thinking today? Rail services depend on it. Photo: DPA

Negotiations restart between GDL and Bahn

Deutsche Bahn (DB) and the train drivers union (GDL) are bellying up to the bargaining table again on Friday, though the head of the GDL won't rule out more strikes. READ  

Beckenbauer targeted in Fifa ethics inquiry
Is the Kaiser tarnished? Photo: DPA

Beckenbauer targeted in Fifa ethics inquiry

German football hero Franz Beckenbauer has been named as one of five Fifa executive committee members being investigated for possible corruption by the football association's ethics board, it was reported on Thursday. READ  

Germany and Italy: help refugee home countries
Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Paolo Gentiloni at a meeting earlier this month. Photo: DPA

Germany and Italy: help refugee home countries

Foreign Ministers Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Paolo Gentiloni called on Friday for increased aid to countries many people are fleeing as refugees. READ  

Economists urge reform for Germany, France
Photo: DPA

Economists urge reform for Germany, France

A top level economic report on Thursday urged European heavyweights France and Germany to implement urgent economic reforms, warning that Europe risked falling into a "stagnation trap". READ  

Bavaria plans free wifi for 'whole state'
Soon you'll be able to tweet from the top of Neuschwanstein. Photo: DPA

Bavaria plans free wifi for 'whole state'

Finance minister Christian Söder wants to drag Bavaria online with an ambitious plan for far-ranging public internet access by 2020. READ  

Ebola-ready jet prepared for take off
Steinmeier takes a tour. Photo: DPA

Ebola-ready jet prepared for take off

Come take a tour of special medical evacuation jet the Robert Koch, which is designed to transport patients with Ebola and was unveiled on Thursday at Berlin's Tegel Airport. READ  

Study finds migrants are a €22 billion boon
A migrant worker helps with the Spreewald pickle harvest. Photo: DPA

Study finds migrants are a €22 billion boon

A new study has shown that immigrants in Germany are a boon for the government's coffers to the tune of €22 billion, the Bertelsmann Foundation announced on Thursday. READ  

Student 'brain dead' after brutal beating
Memorials left for Tugce outside the restaurant where the attack occurred. Photo: DPA

Student 'brain dead' after brutal beating

A young woman who was so viciously beaten after she intervened in a fight that she fell into a coma is now brain-dead, doctors in Offenbach confirmed on Thursday. READ  

Leipzig police seek testicle biter
Biting these balls won't get you in trouble with the police. Meatballs photo: Shutterstock

Leipzig police seek testicle biter

Police in Leipzig are looking for a ball buster after a man arrived in hospital with a bite to the nether regions. READ  

World welcomes Merkel's face-off with Putin
Photo: DPA

World welcomes Merkel's face-off with Putin

Chancellor Angela Merkel was unflinching in her criticisms of President Vladimir Putin of Russia in a Bundestag speech seen as confirming a turning point in German foreign policy on Wednesday. READ  

RECEIVE OUR NEWSLETTER AND ALERTS
Photo: DPA
Culture
Get ready for Christmas like a German. We tell you how.
Sponsored Article
Win a €250 voucher for your Christmas list
Photo: DPA
Munich
She did what with her dead mother?
Photo: DPA
National
Germany still paying for crisis fall out
Photo: DPA
Culture
Saxon wurst is the worst, Christmas market declares.
Photo: DPA
Politics
Can 'sorry' ever be enough for the Linke?
Sponsored Article
Shop Christmas gifts at Debenhams international store
Sponsored Article
Ever wanted to try out home exchange?
Photo: DPA
Berlin
The Local's series on 25 years since the fall of the Berlin Wall
Shutterstock
Sponsored Article
Offer: Unlimited airmiles through December 19th
Photo: DPA
Gallery
See how Berlin has changed in 22 photos
Photo: DPA
Gallery
Want to study in Germany? These are the subjects to choose
Photo: DPA
Business & Money
JobTalk: All you need to know about working in Germany
National
Share news tips with The Local Germany
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

3,217
jobs available
The Local Spain is hiring!
The Local is seeking a new editor for our site in Spain to join our growing team of internationally-minded, driven, ambitious and clued-up journalists.
Details and how to apply
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd