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ISSUE 52 page 4

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Unions partly satisfied as Euro-parliament votes to extend paid maternity leave
 THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT RECENTLY VOTED TO EXTEND PAID MATERNITY LEAVE to twenty weeks but left the level of payment during the last four weeks up to Member States. Maternity allowance for the first sixteeen weeks must equal 100% of the last or average monthly salary. It also recommended that EU countries institute two weeks fully paid paternity leave for fathers to be taken during the period of their partner’s maternity leave. This was an improvement on the original proposal by the European Commission, which reviewed the Pregnant Workers Directive dating from 1992, that would have set up an 18-week leave, only the first six weeks of which would be on full pay. The parliament also adopted amendments banning the sacking of pregnant women until six months after the end of leave and entitling them to return to their job or equivalent post. Night work and overtime will also be prohibited for women in the last ten weeks before childbirth and during the period of breastfeeding.
Ronzulli, L.

According to Portuguese Socialist MEP Edite Estrela, who is steering the proposed legislation through the parliament, ‘Maternity cannot be regarded as a burden on social security systems, it is an investment in our future’.
Business groups staged strong resistance to the proposal supported by the UK government. Current British laws guarantee only 90% of salary for the first six weeks and this can be claimed back by the employer. Nonetheless UK business groups say that the extension would cost them £2.5 billion a year and the Department for Business professed itself ‘very disappointed’ by the vote. The European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) welcomed the general trend of the parliamentary decision but still demanded fully paid maternity leave of 18 weeks. The Council of Ministers will now consider the proposal and ETUC General Secretary John Monks stressed that ‘Working mothers in Europe have been waiting a long time for an improvement of European maternity leave protection. The Council must ensure that they have not waited in vain‘.

Licia Ronzulli MEP shows a personal interest in the new law



Swedes freeze out far-right activists
Turkish union-bashers reap worldwide condemnation
FOLLOWING THE ENTRY INTO PARLIAMENT of the far-right Sweden Democrats party at the recent general election in that country more trade unions have instituted bans on active party members. The Swedish Association of Health Professionals will not admit anybody who represented the Sweden Democrats: ‘To be a nurse or a midwife is based on protecting people’s rights and equal value. You have to reflect on the fact that perhaps not everyone fulfills those guidelines’ cautioned chair of the union Anna-Karin Eklund. Meanwhile an elected member of the IF Metall union has won a seat for the anti-immigrant party on a municipal council, posing problems for the union leadership. ‘The Sweden Democrats’ ideas stand in conflict with everything we stand for, but you can’t just throw them out automatically’ said vice chair Anders Ferbe. However the Swedish Transport Workers union (TransPort) disagrees ‘We exclude active Sweden Democrats from membership. Their ideas aren't compatible with our statutes and the fact that they've gotten some kind of legitimacy by getting elected to the Riksdag and local councils doesn't matter’ emphasised vice-chair Martin Viredius. The trade union representing science graduates has had a ban in place since 2006 and will investigate suspected active Sweden Democrats if another member requests it while the SKTF public sector union forbids them from holding elected leadership positions.
TURKISH EMPLOYEES OF MULTINATIONAL COURIER company UPS have faced physical violence, dismissal and even gunshots fired by a manager after they expressed an interest in joining the road transport union TÜMTIS. 157 out of around 5,000 total staff have been sacked, all of them prospective or actual union members. The dispute escalated after the manager of a sub-contractor in Izmir fired shots outside the office of a public notary to encourage workers to sign documents renouncing their membership. Informed of the problems encountered by its affiliate the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) passed a resolution of support at its congress, attempted to involve senior management in Brussels and UPS headquarters in Atlanta and provided financial support to the dismissed employees. When little progress was made a worldwide day of solidarity was held on September 1st with actions especially concentrating on UPS subsidiaries in other countries.  TÜMTIS President Kenan Ozturk explained in a recent interview ‘The resistance has already lasted six months and the workers live in extremely difficult conditions’ but ‘we believe that our demands are legitimate and we expect that we will win this dispute and our demands will be accepted’. He believes that international pressure, such as TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber’s letter to Turkey’s ambassador to the UK and visits by ITF officials to Istanbul, is the key to winning the dispute.

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