Minimum salary! No more excuses.

by Niccolò Morelli – England, 1840. For the first time, a metaphor, borrowed from military jargon, appears to describe the growing mass of unemployed generated as a direct consequence of the industrial revolution: the“Industrial Reserve Army”, which represents, as mentioned, a workforce temporarily unemployed but always available to companies, which can decide to use it at specific times: when they intend to increase production or when they intend to use it to discourage, with the aim of decreasing, the wage claims of workers busy. In summary: Are you working but do you think that your salary is not adequate for the workload you have to endure and the hours you have to undergo? No problem. There is an army of unemployed out there ready to replace you who would accept without question the salary that you (ungrateful !!) intend to question.

This conception, taken up and pitted in all its nuances in 1867 by Marx, implies that the army of unemployed we have spoken of are a precise will of capital which has every interest in maintaining the status quo so that any claim to wage increases it is driven away by competition between employed and unemployed workers.


It makes you shiver to think how an expression coined over 180 years ago perfectly manages to describe a discomfort (and a guilty lacuna) of our days. In the Italy of 2021, the one in which war is fought a 3.5 million poor who receive a sacrosanct subsidy instead of blaming tax evaders and thieves, there are still perfectly legal underpaid jobs.

According to the data provided by INPS, four and a half million people are paid less than 9 euros an hour, two and a half million less than 8 euros an hour and about 400 thousand people have wages so low that they have to be supplemented with the income of citizenship. In some cases even, thanks to pirate contracts and others that have not been renewed for years, there are jobs that guarantee even less than 5 euros per hour.

Italy, therefore, is populated by an army of millions of people who break their backs from morning to evening working full time for 700/800 euros a month. In any other country of the European Union this type of pay would be considered slavery, and this by virtue of the fact that practically everywhere on the continent there is a minimum hourly wage which aims to give dignity to workers with wages in line with the work performed.

The minimum hourly wage exists in 21 of the 27 countries of the European Union; In Germany, there are even discussions these days to increase it to 12 euros per hour.

In Italy, however, in the current state of affairs, the only thing that constantly increases from year to year is the cost of living. Fuels of all kinds, primary foodstuffs, car tax, Rai license fee, electricity, water and gas bills. The only thing that does not increase, but rather decreases, is the salaries. In fact, our country, as can be seen from the table below, holds another very sad record: we are in fact the only country in which wages, from 1990 to today, instead of increasing and adjusting to the cost of living, have decreased, with the obvious consequence of having generated an ever-growing mass of new poor. A new industrial reserve army.

Openpolis, OCSE.

Just as in the capitalist society described by Marx, where capital did everything to safeguard the survival of the industrial reserve army, with the aim of using it if necessary as a blackmailing weapon to keep wages at starvation levels, even today in 2021. the idea that workers claim fair wages makes many turn up their noses.

It is regrettable that among the most active opponents of this measure of pure common sense there are those who should safeguard the rights of workers: the trade unions.

The introduction of a minimum hourly wage would effectively remove one of their main powers from trade unions: bargaining. Bargaining that for almost a century has meant a weapon of political struggle, but which too often has expired in a mere let-through to open the doors of political buildings to trade unionists in search of a career. Ask Bertinotti, D’Antoni, Pezzotta, Del Turco, Cofferati, Durigon and many (many !!) others.

Other active on the front of the “no” to the minimum wage are the employers’ associations and, more importantly, the industrialists. Those who, so to speak, accused the Citizenship Income of encouraging the “idlers” to give up succulent underpaid seasonal jobs and in the name of exploitation. Those who, never satisfied with billions, asked to allocate the Pnrr funds set aside for social safety nets to the company, which in the period of the pandemic (and not only) saved lives and acted as a glue for the social stability of the country.

In the eyes of its opponents, the introduction of the minimum wage is a great risk also because, in addition to restoring dignity to millions of workers, it would take away a fundamental argument from our own benaltrists who attack the citizen’s income day and night.

If the jobs offered finally began to be paid adequately, no Rdc earner would ever dream of refusing. If paid and protected properly, waiters, bartenders, cleaning men and women, cooks, dishwashers, doormen and seasonal workers of all kinds and levels will never fail.

And there will never be a subsidy that holds in front of a true, serious and loyal job offer. This is precisely the aim of the bill presented to the Labor Commission in the Senate by the former Minister Nunzia Catalfo: to reduce inequalities, increase the purchasing power of workers and at the same time establish a threshold of dignity below which no collective agreement must fall. But above all, strengthen the “healthy” collective bargaining and identify the “leader” contracts, in order to finally put an end to the proliferation of the so-called “pirate” CCNL, another all-Italian shame. In fact, out of 860 national collective agreements, according to the CNEL database, as many as 600 are “pirate” contracts. Pirate in the sense that they are signed only to pay workers less and recognize them less rights and protections. Signed by organizations that do not exist or were born only with the aim of doing wage dumping. When they have the “misfortune” of falling back into an agreement of this type, workers get to receive up to 30 percent less wages than their colleagues, not to mention holidays, illness, maternity, thirteenth, any corporate welfare etc.

All this in a country that likes to call itself civil can no longer exist. Work and the dignity of workers must return to being central themes in the political debate for the relaunch of Italy.

The 5 Star MoVement has been saying this since 2013.

The minimum wage is not an ideological battle, it is a necessity.


Niccolò Morelli, born in 1993, was born in Empoli but lives in the Tuscan hills of Vinci, the town that gave birth to the genius of Leonardo. In 2018 he graduated in Political Science at the University of Florence and two years later he obtained a Master’s degree in Labor Sciences, half of which attended the Université catholique de Louvain in Belgium, with a thesis entitled “Digitization and robotization: towards a future without work?”.

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