Austerity is Americanizing European labor markets

According to a report in the New York Times, member-nations of the European Union — but especially those in the south — are gutting pro-worker labor laws in a desperate effort to reduce the cost of labor.Portugal, for example, has reduced the number of private sector workers covered by collective bargaining agreements from 1.9 million in 2008 to just 300,000 in 2012. Spain, meanwhile, has loosened restrictions on collective layoffs, and softened limits on extending temporary work, now allowing workers to work on fixed-term contracts for as many as four years. Ireland has frozen its minimum wage, and Greece — perhaps the ground zero of the anti-labor austerity movement — has shaved its minimum wage by a fourth.All of these dramatic social and economic changes have happened in just a few years, causing many to worry that Europe’s social contract is rapidly undergoing dramatic changes without adequate democratic accountability. “The speed of change has certainly been very fast. As far as I can tell, these are the most significant changes since World War II,” Raymond Torres, the chief economist of the International Labor Organization in Geneva, told the Times.Continue Reading…

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