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Gender pay gap: EU’s Women’s Charter aims to spur further action


FOLLOWING THE ‘ROADMAP FOR EQUALITY BETWEEN MEN AND WOMEN’ (see issue 37) which planned to attack gender discrimination in the workplace between 2006 and 2010, the European Commission is trying to reinvigorate the process with a ‘Women’s Charter’ as part of its strategy for gender equality 2010-2015. Its five key actions, as set out by Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, are the promotion of equality in the labour market, cutting the gender pay gap by 2015, ensuring more women are decision-makers, eradicating  violence against women and the encouragement of gender equality beyond the EU. The continued focus on the pay gap is unsurprising as it remains stubbornly high, women earning, on average, 18% less than men in 2008. Among the possible laws that the Commission will consider are measures to reveal salary figures at both company and individual level, an obligation for employers to ensure gender-neutral job descriptions and pay scales, and stiffer penalties for breaches of equal pay legislation. The EU will also seek to help both companies and workers by raising awareness of the pay gap and the reasons for it, continuing to promote labels, charters and awards for good practice and developing statistical tools for analysing the size of salary differences within firms. To this end  a new web page has been introduced on the  site of the Employment, Social Affairs to calculate the gender pay gap in their company and tells employees the size of the gap in the economic sector and country where they are working.
‘I am deeply concerned that the gender pay gap has barely fallen over the last 15 years and in some countries it is even increasing’ said Viviane Reding, the EU Commissioner for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship. She added: ‘In these times of crisis, the gender pay gap is a cost Europe cannot afford’. President Barroso affirmed that the Women’s Charter was an integral part of the EU’s Europe 2020 strategy: ‘Especially in times of crisis, we need to incorporate the gender dimension in all of our policies, for the benefit of both women and men’.

The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), in its contribution to the consultation on the new charter, stressed the importance of the regulation of working hours and of reversing the trend towards long and flexible working weeks  that confirms traditional stereotypes as men are at work for longer while women take up part-time jobs to fit in with child care. Time off from work, such as parental leave, for working parents will only be truly helpful when there is no loss of wages involved, according to the ETUC. They say that there is evidence that the economic crisis is hitting women harder than men as cuts to public sector jobs disproportionately affect them.
 The European Commission’s Gender Pay Gap calculator is at:
Bargaining round-up

THE GERMAN SUBSIDIARY OF THE US MULTI-NATIONAL drinks company Coca-Cola has concluded an agreement with the NGG trade union which specifies modest pay rises of up to 2.3% in 2012 in return for a guarantee of no compulsory redundancies. There will also be no further out-sourcing, including van-driving, and the company has undertaken to employ all trainees as they complete their training. However flexibility will increase with the employer able to extend weekly hours to 48.
MALTA HAS BEEN PLAGUED WITH INTER-UNION rivalries in recent years and they played a part in the government’s recent success in raising tariffs on  water and electricity. In 2008 united action by the two main union blocs, the Organisation of Maltese Unions (OMU) and the Confederation of Malta Trade Unions (CMTU) persuaded the authorities to alter their plans. However, under pressure from the economic recession, the administration announced new increases at the end of last year. This time the divisions on the union side came to the fore. The OMU held protests and enlisted the support of the Maltese Labour Party but the CMTU refused to take part. They preferred to attend meetings with the government as part of the country’s Economic Council. The government, having ignored requests to open talks outside this forum, defeated the Labour Party motion calling for withdrawal of the increases, which were approved.
IN THE NETHERLANDS WAGE DEALS HAVE BEEN made in a number of industries but civil servants have signalled their intention to hold rotating strikes to protest against a 0% pay ‘offer’ from employers. Both union confederations, FNV and CNV, want to achieve at least a 1% increase as well as committing the employer to invest 1% of the total wage bill in training and employment opportunities. The employers regard these demands as ‘irresponsible’ saying that they will cost jobs. Meanwhile agreements have been reached at the Philips electronics company and in the iron and steel industry for increases of 1.75% and 1.65% respectively.

Self-employed drivers’ work time:
union victory again near

THE LABYRINTHINE DECISION-MAKING process of the European Parliament and its committees appears to be almost ready to deliver a victory to trade unions on the issue of working time for self-employed drivers. We have reported previously (see issues 48 and 47) as it seemed that an EU Commission proposal to exclude self-employed drivers from the working time regulations of the transport industry would be rejected. Following a meeting of the employment committee which voted down 25-24 a decision of the full parliament against the Commission, the ‘rapporteur’ Edit Bauer, a Slovakian conservative (EPP group), produced a new report which advocated acceptance of the Commission proposal saying ‘I am firmly convinced the self-employed do not need protection from themselves’. However, after over a hundred amendments had been tabled the committee voted 30-18 to reject it. Shadow rapporteur Stephen Hughes (UK,

Bauer, E.Hughes, S.

Employment committee MEPs Edit Bauer (against working time restrictions) and Stephen Hughes (for)

Socialist) replied 'Fatigue kills and it does not make any difference if the driver is employed or self-employed’. A full plenary session of the parliament confirmed this decision on 17th June by 368 to 301. A trade union lobbying campaign was held responsible for the victory, having convinced enough EPP MEPs to desert their colleagues and vote against the Commission. The Transport Commissioner, Siim Kallas, said the EU executive reserved the right to withdraw its proposal but in the meantime self-employed drivers will be added to the 2002 Road Transport directive as should have occurred in 2009 but for the Commission’s intervention. Member States must enforce a limitation to 60 hours’ working time per week or have infringement proceedings started against them.


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