Put pressure on Europe to intervene in this unprecedented energy crisis. That is the main objective of the figures with which the European Trade Union Confederation, the umbrella association of European trade unions, unpacked on Tuesday.
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The ETUC notes that 9.5 million workers in the EU already had a very difficult time paying their energy bills before the crisis. Meanwhile, however, energy prices have risen exponentially and the situation has gotten much worse. Last year there were only eight EU countries where the annual energy bill was at least as high as the minimum wage. That number has now doubled.
36 vs 11 days
And yes, our country is also on the list. Anyone who earns the minimum wage of 1,842 euros per month here has to work 37 days to be able to cough up the 2,227 euros per year. It is not clear whether the figures take into account the social energy tariff that exists in Belgium. What is certain is that only seven EU countries are in even greater difficulties. It concerns the Czech Republic – where protests have already arisen against the sky-high energy bill – where people with the minimum wage absorb more than two months (65 days). Then follow Estonia (54), Greece (54), the Netherlands (48), Slovakia (45), Spain (38) and Croatia (37).
In Slovakia, Greece, the Czech Republic and Italy, even an average wage is not enough to pay the annual accounts. That is not yet the case with us with an average gross annual salary of 33,336 euros. But Belgium is also well at the bottom of the ladder with 24 days. In the ranking with the 24 EU countries that were included in the study – Cyprus, Malta and Finland are not included in the figures – our country is only in 17th place. At the very bottom, Greece dangles with 36 days. Lithuania, on the other hand, does best with 11 days.
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It is good to know that the European Trade Union Confederation took July as a point of comparison. Even then, prices were very high, but not as high as in August, when gas prices exploded like never before. Esther Lynch of the ETUC emphasizes that energy prices are not the only thing that has become considerably more expensive in recent months. Raw materials and food also skyrocketed.
“When your energy bill absorbs more than a month’s wages, there are no more clever savings tricks that can make a difference. These prizes are simply unpalatable to millions of people,” she says. The ETUC is therefore demanding higher (minimum) wages from Europe, a blocking of energy prices, the introduction of an excess profit tax for energy companies and support measures for families and companies.