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ISSUE 72 page 4

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Germany passes female director quota law
Cyprus: workers protest against state sell-off

ONE OF THE BASTIONS OF THE VOLUNTARY approach to getting more women on company boards (after the U.K. of course) has fallen. The German parliament, the Bundestag, recently passed a law requiring 30% of of top companies’ supervisory boards to be female from 2016. If they do not meet the target they will have to recruit more women or leave vacancies empty. The measure will apply to 108 stock-market listed firms that are run by the system of co-determination that includes worker representation on boards. In addition 3,500 medium-sized companies will be required to set their own targets for women on both executive and supervisory bodies as well as in the two highest levels of management.
The poor record of Germany, where women account for only 17.4% of supervisory boards and 6.1% of management boards in the 160 most important companies, and 59% of mid-size firms do not have a woman in a leadership position, has led sceptics such as Chancellor Angela Merkel to come round to the quota idea. The centre-left SPD, junior partner in the coalition government, were the driving force behind the new law with justice minister Heiko Maas declaring ‘The quotas … are the biggest contribution to equal rights since the vote for women was introduced’. Minister for Family Affairs Manuela Schwesig said the passing of the bill was a ‘historic step’ and a ‘good day for women’. Opposition parties abstained from the vote, arguing that the bill did not go far enough with the Left Party (Die Linke) calling for a 50% quota. However there is still opposition among some employers, Car-maker BMW’s spokesman said ‘BMW as a company doesn’t believe in quotas’. It seems, though, that with Merkel now on the other side of the argument the nay-sayers have lost: ‘We can’t afford to forgo the competence of women’ she told parliament ‘We’ve decided to do this and it will happen’.

Angela Merkel with women’s minister Schwesig

CYTA IS THE STATE-OWNED CORPORATION which provides landline and mobile telephones, Internet connectivity and digital television to the Mediterranean island nation, or at least the Greek part of it. It is reckoned to be modern, efficient and a regional leader in its sector. This has made it a target for the privatisers of the infamous troika (European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund, European Commission) who cut a deal with the government after a banking crisis in 2013, One billion euros of state assets were to be sold off to add to the €10 billion loan advanced. The denationalisation programme, which also involves the Ports and Electricity authorities, is being opposed by trade unions who organised a protest in Nicosia. ‘They are selling the cow to buy some milk’ read one banner while another asking ‘I pledge. Do you know any other jokes?’ was aimed at Prime Minister Anastasiades who promised not to seize bank deposits shortly before the troika agreement did just that. CyTA employees’ union rep Alecos Tryfonides insisted ‘Another theft is in the works, after the haircut, after the bank bonds – this time of wealth belonging to the Cypriot people’.

CyprusStrike

Union members protest on a footbridge in Nicosia

Bus drivers get pay rise in Estonia
Public sector to get pay rise in Czech Republic
ESTONIAN TRADE UNION ETTA HAS negotiated a substantial increase in wages for 14,000 members in passenger transport. The bus drivers received a 14.3% rise from April after a new sectoral agreement was made with the employers’ organisation Union of Estonian Automobile Enterprises (AL). The deal also includes a minimum wage of €800 a month. Transport has traditionally been an industry where collective bargaining has been fruitful since the fall of communism in the country.
AS THE BRITISH CHANCELLOR APPEARS READY TO condemn public sector workers to another five years of minuscule-at-best pay increases other countries are preparing to share the proceeds of improving economies. In the Czech Republic the CMKOS trade union federation has predicted a raise of more than 3% following talks with government ministers. The unions had asked for 5% for clerks, teachers, police officers and firefighters arguing that MPs and judges had been scheduled rises of over 3%. CMKOS leader Josef Stredula said ‘If it is from November as we agreed on, then it seems that it will be more than the originally planned 3 per cent’. Health sector workers are to be considered separately as their pay can only be varied in January according to Labour Minister Michaela Marksova. The right wing opposition party is against any increase in government spending while the employers’ organisation is opposed to wage rises for civil servants.




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