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|EVERY YEAR ON MARCH 8TH, (International Women’s Day) the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC) carries out a survey to evaluate the progress, or otherwise, of women, both as ordinary members and in leadership positions, in trade unions. Compared to 2008, the onset of the financial crisis, union membership in general has declined but female numbers have increased. The result is that the proportion of women has jumped from 44.2% to 49.7%. The Nordic and Baltic federations continue to lead the way with STTK-Finland (75%), Latvian union LBAS (71.5%) and the Danish confederation FTF (68%) having more female then male members. South-east Europe remains at the bottom of the league with Cypriot confederation DEOK (12.5%,) followed by two Turkish unions, TURK-IS (13%) and HAK-IS (18.1%). Examination of leadership positions in trade union confederations shows a reduction in women post-holders since 2013 when 26% of general secretaries were female. This year 53 leading||
|by national federations to implement these. They include action plans, gender mainstreaming, working groups and special events. These ‘soft policies’ tend to predominate with only seven federations operating quotas, usually between 25% and 40%. Unions were also asked about the EU’s ‘strategic framework on equality between women and men’ which is to be renewed this year. Although most answers regarded the programme as helpful, the problems of work-life balance, with women still called upon to do the majority of unpaid domestic work, and equal pay, with the gender pay gap still at over 16%, were seen as priorities for the new programme.|
positions were identified of which only seven were held by women (14.5%). The proportion of women leaders in trade unions in Europe is therefore significantly lower than the proportion of women in governments and in parliaments in EU countries (around 24% on average). The ETUC has been aware of this gender imbalance for some years and, in 2011, adopted recommendations to remedy it. Various measures were reported in the survey as being taken
A LONG-DISCUSSED, EVEN BY EUROPEAN UNION standards, proposal has failed to make it to the Official Journal as a new directive. In 2008 the Commission notified the Council of Ministers and the European Parliament that it would be proposing an update to the 1992 Maternity Directive. Compulsory maternity leave would be increased from 14 to 18 weeks, six weeks of which would have to be taken immediately after childbirth, and the Commission would recommend that all Member States pay women their full salary during this period. The European Parliament’s Women’s Rights Committee proposal to increase the compulsory period to 20 weeks on full pay and add two weeks of paternity leave was eventually approved by the institution by 390 to 192 (see issue 52). However, under the co-decision procedure, this also had to be approved by the Council of Ministers and here determined opposition from some Member States meant that no further progress could be made (see issue 53). When the new Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker took office last year he gave the proposal six months to be agreed before it would fall victim to the new EU push to scrap laws in the interests of ‘better regulation’.
Finally Commissioner for Equality Věra Jourová announced on 1 July that the proposal was to be withdrawn and a new one put forward in 2016. It is thought that this will concentrate on the economic benefits of women joining the workforce. In 2010 the Commission said that it wanted equal participation in the labour market by 2020 but at 63.5% for women and 75% for men the current rate of progress will not achieve this until 2081. She insisted that ‘This is a big economic issue’. Topics such as better childcare, putting a value on domestic work and redressing the pensions gap, where women receive, on average, 40% less than men, are likely to be added to the general agenda of ‘flexibility’. None of this impressed trade unions and women’s groups whose reaction to the withdrawal from has not been positive. The European trade union federation EPSU asked Ms. Jourová ‘how will you explain this to all working parents in Europe that are already struggling’? It pointed out that since the economic crisis in Europe ‘Women’s employment insecurity, lower working hours, part-time work, and occupational segregation have often increased’ and concluded ‘Mrs. Jourova, act now for gender equality and equal pay!’