Vera Morgenstern addresses the 7th EPSU Congress: activity report of Gender Equality Committee, Monday 14 June

Dear sisters and brothers, it gives me great pleasure to present the very first report on the activities of the EPSU Committee for gender equality.

The Committee was set up following our last Congress in 2000 as a consultative body to assist the Steering and Executive Committees and support implementation of gender equality policies. Its members are drawn from the EPSU Executive Committee.

The decision to establish a gender equality Committee, and not a women's committee, as is more common practice, was a recognition that progress on equality would always remain precarious without men's shared and sustainable commitment. It also meant that tackling inequalities would improve both women's and men's quality of life.

An action plan was drawn up by the Committee and approved by the Executive Committee in June 2001. On the chapter « responsibility », the emphasis was on developing cooperation between EPSU and the women's committees of the ETUC and PSI's European region. Key priorities were to raising women's participation in the decision making bodies of EPSU and its affiliates, and gender mainstreaming all EPSU activities, in particular collective bargaining. The Committee was also to provide information on EU policies in the area of gender equality and exchange best practice.

Since the change made to the EPSU Constitution in 2000, there has been a steady number of women taking part in our decision-making bodies. This is in the range of 35% in the steering committee and 45% in the Executive Committee. It was below 15% in 1996. A number of countries continue however appointing only men, against a minority number nominating women in both titular and substitute positions. In the Standing Committees women outnumber men in the Health and Social Services Committee. The utilities have a low take up of women members, but some renewed commitment to change this was expressed early last year. For public administrations women count for a third of the membership.

Overall this is a good result. In 2002 the ETUC published a survey of women in European trade unions which highlighted EPSU's leading role among all ETUC's Industry Federations. This is good for EPSU profile but it also shows the extent to which other sister federations fail to modernise and improve their score on equality issues.

But we should not forget that our ultimate objective should be to achieve full parity, in line with our membership with more than 50% of women.

Among our affiliates, the Committee's limited resources did no allow for monitoring developments. We know some progress has been achieved though. And this change only came about, as in EPSU, with the adoption of binding instruments with clear targets. The ETUC's action plan 2003-2007 is considering making binding rules on this for all its affiliates.

As our efforts concentrated on gender mainstreaming our activities, it was important to first explain what we meant by this. We ran a half-day gender mainstreaming session at the EPSU Executive committee in November 2002. Gender mainstreaming as a tool to reduce the gender gaps was not yet fully understood. More educational work was therefore needed. A section on gender mainstreaming has been included in the EPSU educational modules on the EU, to this effect.

The same year, we launched an equal pay campaign taking up the ETUC objective of reducing the gap between 2 to 5 % by 2007. In line with PSI policy, this resolution also emphasised the need to combat low wages, which have become a real scourge for many women. Emphasis on the role of national minimum wages in redressing inequalities is also part of the campaign. Results are surveyed every year as part of EPSU's collective bargaining work. It is too early to really assess the impact of this resolution at national level. It is clear, however, affiliates need to be more involved in collecting data and monitoring developments so that the extent of discrimination can be detected and addressed. We also need more proactive strategies. Still EPSU's action, in close cooperation with PSI and the ETUC, has been key in mobilising and raising awareness.

As part of our external priorities, our attention has focused on the EU Convention charged with drafting the EU Constitution. As part of the EPSU campaign for a recognition of public services in the Treaty, we pressed the Convention members, 80% of whom were men, to establish the positive link between gender equality and quality public services. As we know we partly succeeded on this. Existing Treaty provisions on equal treatment between women and men, both at the workplace and outside, have been maintained in the final draft text, no less no more!

As part of EPSU's role in the cross-industry social dialogue, we started, last December, negotiating with the employers, including CEEP for the public sector, a framework of actions on gender equality. The main objective is to put in place a concrete instrument adding value to existing EU and national legislation, such as equality plans. It should also promote collective bargaining as well as more and better child and elderly care as key tools to redress gender inequalities.

Last, just a year ago, we held a 2-day and 1/2 conference in Brussels taking stock of legislative development and setting out new priorities on pay, pensions and value of women's work. We had a full agenda with speakers from the European Commission, Parliament and EU Convention. Around 40 delegates attended and played a very active role. The conference fed into our draft resolution which I will introduce later this week.

Regarding the Committee members, there have been some changes over the past four years. Inma Bernabé from the Mediterranean constituency left the Committee end of 2002, followed last year by Gunhild Johansen, from the Nordic Constituency, who was replaced by Tove Stangnes. Both sisters were very active members of the Committee and I want to express my warmest thanks to them for all their work.

I cannot end this report without commenting on male attendance, since getting men involved was part of our overall objective! Participation rate has not been very satisfactory. We trust that this absence has no bearing on colleagues' commitment and there is no question, so far, to go back to a women's committee. I believe this will be redressed over the next Congress period. As public service unions we need to be at the forefront of the gender equality agenda and keep the good profile EPSU has managed to establish in the European trade union movement.

I wish you all a very successful Congress. Thanks for your attention.