Tag Archives: Nerj Deva

Tories abstain on equal pay for women

The gender pay gap, the difference between pay received between women and men, exists across the European Union. In the UK the gender pay gap is 10.2 per cent – not the worst in the EU but still far too high. The gap is widest in Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Germany and Slovakia and narrowest in Belgium, Italy, Malta and Slovenia, according to Eurostat.

Yesterday the European Parliament passed a report on equal pay for male and female workers for equal work or work of equal value. Despite having legislation on equal pay for over 50 years there is still a 16%-17% gender pay gap in the EU. All attempts to lessen and ultimately get rid of the pay gap between women and men are absolutely necessary, and this report is an important step.

In view of the lack of progress to date, MEPs urged the European Commission and member states to reinforce existing legislation with appropriate types of effective, proportionate and dissuasive sanctions for employers in breach of it. These sanctions should include penalties, administrative fines and disqualification from public benefits and subsidies.

It is not just that women are at a higher risk of falling into poverty. Statistics show that the gender gap is growing with age. There is also a gap when it comes to pensions and older women have a greater risk of falling into poverty than men do.

Even in sectors where women employees prevail, men tend to have higher salaries. Horizontal and vertical segregations of economic sectors are deeply rooted in the economies of all EU member states, but it has also much to do with culture and with society’s approach to motherhood.

It is really striking is there are now more women who graduate, and statistics show that women who start their working careers are better paid than young men in the UK. The gap appears for the first time when women return to the labour market after their first maternal leave.  It is time to change the approach to motherhood and evaluate parenthood in society.

Yesterday’s report makes several concrete proposals, including:

  • more transparency about the way      salaries are negotiated and settled to prevent women receiving less than      men
  • the European Parliament should offer      a “Women in Business Europe” prize to be awarded to employers
  • employers to be required to carry out      regular equal pay audits
  • attention to part-time work where the      gender pay gap is highest
  • measures to ensure disadvantaged      women and women with disabilities are not treated less favourably
  • additional research on this issue to      be carried out by the European Institute for Gender Equality as well as EU      member states
  • the European Commission to review and      update existing legislation
  • member states to behave in an      exemplary manner regarding ending the gender pay gap and each to appoint      an equal pay champion

You may be interested to know that British Tories voted against the paragraphs in the report outlining the first two of these recommendations.

Since the votes on these two paragraphs were recorded, I can tell you that the following Tories voted against both: Campbell-Bannerman, Chichester, Deva, Elles, Ford, Foster, Fox, Girling, Harbour, McClarkin, McIntyre, Stevenson, Swinburne, Tannock, Van Orden, Yannakoudakis. The leader of the ECR Martin Callanan voted against the second of these two paragraphs but did not appear to vote on the first.

All of the above abstained on the final vote to agree the report with the honourable exception of Marina Yannakoudakis who voted for it. Mr. Campbell-Bannerman, however, voted against.

If David Cameron is serious about gaining women’s votes and promoting gender equality, he really should do something about his errant MEPs.

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Martin Schulz comes and Martin Schulz goes

Having been elevated to the dizzy heights of President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz has just been replaced by Hannes Swoboda as Leader (President) of the Socialist and Democrat Group.

Akin to the Speaker of the House of Commons, the President of the European Parliament is an influential post with the incumbent representing the EuroParl across the world. Likewise, Leader of the S & D Group, the second largest in the Parliament, is no mean job. It carries power and respect and is important in EU politics.

While I am pleased that a Socialist and Democrat was elected President of the European Parliament on the first ballot – 387 for Schulz, 142 for the ECR’s Nerj Deva and 141 for Diana Wallis, a Lib-Dem and one of the sitting parliamentary Vice-Presidents – the way in which the election was contested caused concern.

First and foremost, nothing was done to address the accusation that the election process is a stitch-up between the two largest political groups in the European Parliament, the European People’s Party (EPP) and the S & D Group. At the beginning of the current mandate in 2009, the EPP and the S & D did a deal whereby the EPP would hold the President position for the first half of the five year parliament then the S & D would take over. Such deals are always taken seriously and almost always hold, as happened today.

Such a way of operating leaves the smaller groups out in the cold, and makes it difficult for members of the two big groups to vote another way, secret ballot notwithstanding.  It is therefore not really democratic.

The Independent this morning ran a sadly British take on the election of the President of the European Parliament, maintaining that there is an anti-British bias. I’m not too sure that this was indeed the case, in spite of David Cameron’s stupid behaviour at the recent Brussels summit which marginalised the UK as one against 26. I am, however, certain that the European Parliament should stop accepting deals such as the one we saw today if it is to be at all credible.

The same goes for the election for the new Leader of the S & D Group which was called to fill the vacancy caused by Martin Schulz’s elevation. Won by the Austrian Hannes Swoboda, the EPLP candidate, Stephen Hughes did not fare too well, the result being Swoboda 102 and Hughes 37 with the French contender Catherine Trautmann securing 45 votes.

It is time the European Parliament sorted itself out and held open elections. All the political groups should stand a chance of gaining the highest positions. It would, in addition, be good to see more female and ethnic minority faces.

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