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ISSUE 58 page 3

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Social dialogue in France produces copious results

BEGINNING LAST YEAR TALKS BETWEEN EMPLOYERS and trade unions in France have resulted in the signing of eight national agreements. Aware of the likely slowdown in negotiations as the Presidential election approaches, the social partners agreed to meet every month in view of the economic crisis. Half of the agreements relate to the various social funds operated jointly by the two sides; these include the supplementary pension and unemployment insurance schemes as well as those helping executives to find work and assisting redundant workers to transfer to a new post. The rest of the deals concern youth unemployment (see page 5) and seek to improve employment prospects, access to housing and training for young people and to support them once they are in work. Despite the elections social dialogue is expected to continue on such topics as career guidance, the quality of working life and the employment of older workers. 
The monthly meetings will continue to monitor the social and economic situation in France and to take urgent action if necessary. According to the representative of the French employers’ association MEDEF: ‘You need to be available when facing a difficult situation, for the sake of both the employees and the companies [and ready] to take urgent measures at any time’. He also called on the government to play its part. Union federations FO and CFDT emphasised the urgency of action while the CFTC and CGT criticised the agenda as  ‘not in the least bit ambitious’. The FO’s Stéphane Lardy added: ‘A social agenda is not going to solve the socio-economic problems of this country’ and pleaded for a distinction between what was feasible through collective bargaining and the extra problems created by the economic crisis.

Civil service social partners want to close gender pay gap

EU-LEVEL TRADE UNIONS AND MANAGEMENT in the central public administration sector have called on the European Commission to amend equal pay legislation with the aim of narrowing the pay gap between men and women. The meeting, between the union federation TUNED and the employers’ equivalent EUPAE, also agreed to promote pay transparency. This year the Commission will consult the social partners to see whether they should propose new legislation or let the partners proceed by agreement. Ahead of the consultation the sectoral social dialogue committee, which includes the Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS) from the U.K. and the British Civil Service, agreed a statement which commits it to collecting data on pay, bonuses and pensions and making them available to the public. ‘Towards equal pay between women and men’ also calls on the Commission to make sure that the EU’s statistical arm, Eurostat, monitors detailed, gendered, comparative data, which are currently lacking in central administration, to re-invigorate analysis of the reasons for the gap and ways to remedy it and to set a quantitative target for reducing it.

Croatians still keen to join the EU club
DESPITE THE RECENT TURMOIL IN THE EURO-AREA financial markets and consequent damage to the European Union’s reputation caused by the cuts imposed as a solution (see page 2), there are still countries queuing up to join. The dispute between Iceland and the U.K. and Netherlands over debts from collapsed banks seems to have postponed that country’s accession leaving Croatia as the next likely member. In a January referendum 66% of Croatians voted ‘Yes’ to the question ‘Do you support the membership of the Republic of Croatia in the European Union?’ Enthusiasm has lessened recently though leading to a turn-out of only 43%. The European Commission has been particularly tough on the Balkan country in the run-up to accession as it felt that the last two entrants, Bulgaria and Romania, did not do enough to curb organised crime and corruption before they were admitted. On the plus side Croatia has already received €145 million from the EU in pre-accession funds and should get another €245 million before it becomes the 28th Member State in July 2013


Croatians voted 2-1 for EU membership

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