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ISSUE 55 page 3

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Survey shows female union membership increasing as cuts hit women but leadership still male
 EVERY YEAR THE EUROPEAN TRADE UNION CONFEDERATION (ETUC)  conducts its 8th. March survey. Named after the date of International Women’s Day it examines the progress made within trade unions in reducing the ‘gender representation gap’, that is increasing the proportion of women in leadership positions to something like that of the membership as a whole. This year it also considered the effect of financially-driven cuts on women’s employment. The 2011 results confirmed the long-term trend of an increasing percentage of union members in Europe being female. Even though overall membership numbers fell, they fell less among women than men, resulting in an increase from 45.5% to 45.9%. compared to last year. 13 national confederations reported having more women members than men including those from Ireland and Switzerland as well as the Nordic countries. Unfortunately this rise is not reflected in the number of female post-holders in the higher reaches of unions. Among statistics which, if anything, are slightly worse than last year there are only four women presidents of confederations (out of 39) and 25 vice-presidents (out of 65), a rate of 38%, down from 41% in 2010. The second part of the report considers the impact of the economic crisis on female employment. 94% of the national and European confederations that responded said that the crisis had affected women, this result contradicts early analyses of the slump that referred to a ‘he-cession’ as it was thought that male-dominated employment sectors such as manufacturing and construction were hardest hit. This may have been true of the first crash but now a second stage appears to be under way in which the effects of the crisis spread out into public sector and ‘caring’ jobs where women workers are predominant. As well as job cuts some federations report that reductions in minimum wage levels, child benefits, tax credits etc. make it harder for women to cope at work which is increasingly likely to be ‘precarious’, be it part time, fixed term, temporary or informal. Most respondents thought that younger women had been most affected and some reported a deterioration in working conditions as well as cuts in wages. Most federations had organised conferences, demonstrations and campaigns to tackle the problems of women in the crisis and some even saw it as an opportunity to de-segregate the labour market.


 The 4th Annual ETUC 8 March Survey, 2011 is available at:

Chinese backers save SAAB at last minute

THE NEAR-BANKRUPTCY OF THE THREE giant American car manufacturers in 2009 left them anxious to offload their European subsidiaries such as SAAB in Sweden which was sold by General Motors to Spyker of the Netherlands. As a small luxury car-maker there was some doubt as to whether the Dutch company had the funds to keep SAAB going for any length of time. This seemed to be confirmed in April when suppliers stopped delivering to the factory near Gothenburg because of unpaid bills. As workers began to be laid off, Spyker found a white knight when Pang Da Automobile of China pledged €45 million to buy cars and €65 million for shares so that SAAB could re-start production. However when the company announced that it could not pay wages due at the end of June union directors resigned, threatening that they would bankrupt the firm if necessary so that workers would get their money, At the last moment an order from a mystery Chinese source for 582 cars worth $18.4 million allowed the lone remaining board member and CEO Victor Muller to confirm salary payment.

 SAAB factory

The SAAB factory in southern Sweden

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