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IndustriALL Europe Equal Opportunities Working Group meets

7 March, 2013The IndustriALL Europe Equal Opportunities Working Group met on 27 February 2013 in Frankfurt, hosted by IG Metall.

It was attended by women from Austria, France, Germany, Sweden, Slovenia, Belgium, Switzerland, Finland, Norway, Spain, Rumania and the Netherlands. It was the first time that such a representative group met. The aim of the meeting was to determine a new chair and to define a work program.

The women all presented their concerns in broad lines. There was nearly always agreement on the themes – the crisis, women working in precarious work, part-time work, not enough women in top leadership, pay gap between men and women, women’s career prospects, combining work and family life, gender-related health issues, equality agreements, equal opportunities for women in skills development, poverty.

The crisis in Europe is on-going with no end in sight. The first to lose their jobs were women and young people, and it was mostly the unskilled jobs that went. Although the crisis is more tangible and acute in southern Europe, economies are also affected by it in the North – when faced by fewer orders from the South, factories close and let workers off. In light of the crisis many cuts have been made to budgets that were earmarked for equality purposes. This has been felt very fiercely in Spain, where equality between women and men had made great strides before the crisis, but in the meantime the situation is reverting to pre-crisis levels.

One good practice in leadership is the Finnish union Pro, a white-collar union which organizes in industry. The union’s membership is 55 per cent women and 45 per cent men. The board has gender parity.

The gender pay gap permeates all sectors. It tends to start at the beginning of the career, and then men move ahead faster. It was felt that encouraging men to stay at home to assume part of family responsibilities would have a positive effect on equality. In spite of all the efforts made over so many years, most shop stewards are still men as are most supervisors. And the glass ceiling still persists.

The group decided on a three-tiered work program – equal pay, combining work and family life and participation. These three issues cover all kinds of themes such as poverty, precarious work, training, pensions, working time, statutory questions, gender parity, quotas and women’s leadership.

It was decided to have a co-chair for the group, with Fabienne Kühn (UNIA Switzerland) and Montserrat Lopez (FITAG-UGT Spain) sharing the chair.