BERLIN (AP) — Chancellor Angela Merkel's Cabinet approved a minimum wage deal for stonemasons Wednesday at its last meeting before Germany's election, underlining her coalition's rejection of a single national standard as it faces a tight re-election battle.
Germany is unusual among Western countries in lacking a national minimum wage.
Center-left challenger Peer Steinbrueck of the Social Democrats advocates a mandatory national minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.35) per hour.
But Merkel's center-right coalition of conservatives and pro-market Free Democrats prefers to let employers and employees decide on minimum pay on a sector-by-sector, region-by-region basis. The government then endorses those deals, making them legally applicable to all workers in a sector.
Wednesday's decision brings the total to seven wage deals since the 2009 election and 12 in total, adding to agreements for cleaners, construction workers and others. The deal for stonemasons foresees minimum pay of at least 10.13 euros ($13.53).
Having politicians set minimum wages is "absolutely wrong — it can't work out well," Labor Minister Ursula von der Leyen, a member of Merkel's Christian Democrats, told ZDF television. "We say that the people who are experts — unions and employers — should do it."
Steinbrueck's campaign spokesman for labor issues, Klaus Wiesehuegel, accused the government of delaying a decision on approving the latest deal only to clear it days before the election.
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