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ISSUE 49 page 3

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More women wanted in top jobs in the Netherlands
 A NUMBER OF GROUPS IN THE Netherlands seem to agree that women are under-represented in top jobs in both companies and public sector bodies. However they have different views on how to change the situation. While the governing Labour party wants to set a target of 30% of executives in large companies being female by 2016, telecomms firm KPN has gone further in asking only women to be candidates for certain posts. Meanwhile a group of over 200 female executives have called for an enforceable quota of 40%, as in Norway. They point out that the current figure of 5.7% at boardroom level will only stand at 12% in 2035 at the present rate of increase. Trade union federation FNV supports this position and has started negotiating with employers on the issue.
of depth and fulfilment in their jobs as opposed to men who valued promotion more highly. Employers generally accepted the possibility of part-time executives but regarded such posts at managerial level as more problematic. Chair of the Part-Time PlusTaskforce, Pia Dijkstra, concludes that the pattern of part-time working as soon as a woman has a child is taken for granted in the Netherlands regardless of its impact on career development. While employers must change attitudes, for instance towards careers for the over-45s, government also has a rôle to play. By incorporating music and swimming lessons into the school day and lengthening opening hours for shops and services it could reduce the onus on women to be available for childcare after 3 p.m.

Pia Dijkstra

Studies by the government body on part-time working have revealed deeper reasons in Dutch society for the lack of participation of female employees at higher levels. Although most women of working age now have jobs, the average number of hours worked is 25 compared to 37 for men. The vast majority of female part-time majority of female part-time workers expressed no desire to work longer hours and were ambitious in terms



Irish National Pay Agreement officially dead
WE HAVE FOLLOWED IN THESE PAGES the twists and turns of negotiating the next phase of the National Social Partnership Agreement in Ireland. Usually including multi-year pay deals between unions, the government and private employers, these agreements had proved very successful since 1987 in maintaining peace in labour relations and underpinning a continual rise in prosperity. Unfortunately the pay provisions of the 2006 social partnership ‘Towards 2016’ ran out just as the world financial crisis was beginning to hit the Irish economy. After difficult talks it appeared to have been rescued with the inclusion of a ‘pay pause’ before rises would take effect but, as the country entered a deep depression, both government and employers reneged on their commitments. According to a survey by the Irish Business and Employers Confederation (IBEC) only 12% of firms awarded pay increases during 2009 while 54% applied a freeze and 22% cut pay. Government too has effectively reduced salaries with a ‘pensions levy’ in the public sector and is expected to further reduce them in its 2010 budget. Unsurprisingly trade union reaction has been swift. After a demonstration attended by 120,000 people in Dublin, negotiations on a new deal started but during the first three quarters of 2009, a total of 81,530 working days were lost through strikes, compared with 4,179 days during the whole of 2008. The 66,887 days lost in the third quarter of 2009 was the highest quarterly figure since 2001. Finally, in December IBEC pulled out of talks saying that ‘The terms of the current pay agreement were agreed in a radically different economic context and are now utterly inappropriate. It would be reckless to attempt to apply those terms in the current circumstances, with so many employers fighting for their very survival’. Trade unions described the withdrawal as a ‘stunt’ and intend to pursue the non-payment of increases due under the current deal. It is expected that unionised companies will now return to local wage bargaining for the first time in over twenty years as IBEC has prepared guidelines for them which will be fnalised during meetings with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions early this year.
Pensioners fight back in Latvia as cuts declared illegal

OF ALL EU MEMBER STATES THE HARDEST HIT by the economic slump appears to have been Latvia. Once it had the biggest snarl of the ‘Baltic tigers’ as economic growth, credit and pay rates roared ahead. Since 2008 however the indicators have slammed into reverse and the economy is thought to have contracted by about 18% last year with unemployment reaching 21%. After reaching agreement on swingeing cuts demanded by the Inrenational Monetary Fund (IMF) (see issue 47) as a condition of a €8.5 billion loan the coalition government reduced public sector pay by 40% and pensions by at least 10%. Now however the pensioners have bitten back by winning their case before the country’s Constitutional Court arguing that the cuts ‘violated the individual's right to social security and the principle of the rule of law’. The court ordered the government to rescind the decrease by March and to pay back the difference, at an estimated total cost of €250 million. Discounting the strictures of the IMF it ruled that such agreements ‘in and of themselves cannot serve as an argument about the limiting of basic rights’.

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