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ISSUE 67 page 4

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Maimed union official elected to EU parliament

Renzi promotes women to end Berlusconi image

ONE OF THE MORE NOTABLE SUCCESSES in the recent European Parliamentary elections was the adoption by the Greek party Syriza of Konstantina Kuneva. The Bulgarian-born history graduate was a trade union activist representing cleaners in the Athens area when she was attacked with sulphuric acid in 2008 (see issue 46). In her rôle with the PEKOP union she was at odds with her employer Oikomet and had been accused of theft and even received death threats. The attack left her blind in one eye with damaged vocal chords and trachea.
Fourth on the party list, she received 165,000 preference votes and will now sit with the Left GUE/NGL group in Brussels and Strasbourg. In a message to her supporters she thanked ‘everyone who believed in my candidacy on Syriza’s European Parliament ticket and who supported my efforts to continue my struggle at another level’, she continued ‘You can be my eyes and ears in the real world of work and survival’.

Kuneva, K.
Konstantina Kuneva MEP

RISING EUROPEAN POLITICAL STAR Matteo Renzi has lost no time in appointing women to top posts in Italian political and economic life. Half of his new cabinet appointments were women when he became Prime Minister in February and he followed this up with the nomination of four female presidents at public sector corporations ENEL, ENI, TERNA and Poste Italiane. Three years ago the Golfo-Mosca law was passed which laid down a 30% quota of women on Italian company boards and the actual figure has since increased from 7 to 20%. In May the success of Renzi’s party, the PD, in the European Parliament elections ensured more important rôles for women as they accounted for the top five candidates on the party list including Allessia Mosca. She contrasted the new policy with the routine portrayal of women as sex objects on Italian television and the prevalence of domestic violence in the country. Prime Minister Renzi took up a similar theme referring to his predecessor Silvio Berlusconi: ‘We were the country of bunga bunga – now women are in charge of foreign affairs and defence and they lead the biggest Italian companies’.


Amazon strikes extended in Germany
Swedes try 6-hour day to boost production
THE LONG-RUNNING DISPUTE BETWEEN U.S. multi-national online retailer Amazon and the German Ver.di trade union has escalated with a two-day strike at the Leipzig and Bad Hersfeld plants. The dispute centres on how the workers are categorised under industrial relations agreements in Germany. The company classifies the staff as logistics workers rather than part of the mail order and retail sector. Ver.di says that these employees had a 5.1% pay rise last year compared to the 2% paid by Amazon. The firm employs a total of 9,000 people in the country, which is its second biggest market after the U.S.A., plus 14,000 seasonal workers. According to Ver.di negotiator Joerg Lauenroth-Mago ‘Amazon is refusing talks about a wage agreement’. There have been union concerns with other such companies in Germany such as Zalando, Europe's largest online fashion retailer, where an under-cover reporter walked 27km. a day when posing as an employee.
THE CITY COUNCIL IN GOTHENBURG, southern Sweden is to conduct a bold experiment which, it hopes, will raise both efficiency and staff well-being. Workers in one department will have their daily hours reduced from seven to six while a ‘control group’ in a similar section will stick with the normal working day. The two groups will receive the same pay. Mats Pilhem, Left Party deputy mayor of the city, believes that the 6-hour section will soon be ‘taking fewer sick days and feeling better mentally and physically’. Despite criticism from the opposition Moderate party Mr. Pilhem sees the measure as cutting down on inefficient working over longer shifts, a bigger problem in sectors such as care of the elderly than staff shortages, he says.

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