Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2006-06-01-Speech-4-008"

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". Mr President, Commissioner, today sees us voting on the Common Position on what is being called a recast directive, one that has been the subject of very prolonged negotiation between the Council and this House, and thus it is that an important legislative process is drawing to its close. We also have to consider new ways ahead, though. For example, we need to examine even more closely the causes of the pronounced segregation in the labour market and must also make the public out there, where it happens, more aware of it. There is also work for the two sides of industry to do, in the shape of even more decisive action to counteract discrimination – particularly against women – in the labour market. Ensuring equality of opportunity is also a challenge to social policy in general, for this concerns more than just one group. The issue is made even more important when one considers the demographic developments, for we are – thank God – living to an ever more advanced age. There is a low birth rate in every European country, and the certain result is that even more women will be going out to work over the coming years and decades. It is particularly against this backdrop that it is important that we should ensure equal opportunities and conditions in this area, particularly for women. I have one minute left, which I would like to use to briefly address another point, that being parental leave, which has also given rise to vigorous debate among us. This recast directive does not, for systemic reasons, include rules on parental leave, but that is something that we want to see at the top of the political agenda, since it is crucial to the balance between work and family life. This is where European impetus can make it clear that even more needs to be done where the balance between work and family life is concerned. I am glad that we can, today, look forward to the Commission having a few things to say about this and that the European Council, too, at the Spring Summit, made balance between work and family life a priority and adopted a European Pact on Gender Equality. We are on the right track, but have not yet reached the end of the road; if we make a joint effort towards getting further action taken to bring about equality of opportunity in the workplace, we may hope to arrive soon at our destination. Before I embark on discussing the directive, I would like to extend warm thanks to the shadow rapporteur for her friendly and constructive cooperation, and also to thank the Luxembourg, UK and Austrian presidencies for having worked together with this House to make a solution possible at all. My thanks also go to the Commission, whose officials dealing with these matters have always been supportive and professional, so thank you, everyone! What is this directive all about? It has to do with Europe’s rules on the equal treatment of women and men in the workplace. There are seven directives dealing with this issue, with forty years’ worth of legal rulings relating to them. By means of this recast directive, on which we will be voting at midday today, we are for once actually doing some better lawmaking, in that we have, in it, summarised the law, condensed it and simplified it, and streamlined it. This recast directive, for the first time, provides standard definitions of such concepts as ‘discrimination’ or ‘sexual harassment’. It standardises and improves legal protection for the victims of discrimination in the workplace. We have also, working together with the Council, succeeded in making improvements to certain points with the intention of establishing equal treatment, with references to such things as cooperation with the – as yet to be established – Gender Institute or the continuation of public information campaigns in the Member States – and that, if I may say so, will have to be that as far as the legislative draft is concerned. How does this work out in everyday life? Despite the euphoria about the simplification of the law and this new directive, we must not forget that considerable deficits still, in practice, remain in the equal treatment of women and men, particularly in the workplace. There is up-to-date statistical evidence from all twenty-five of the Member States that there is still a need for further action where equality is concerned, for there has been no reduction, but rather an increase, in gender-specific differences in the labour market. There is, for example, a difference in pay. It is quite astonishing that, even after many years of case law and legislation, the wage difference amounts to over 15% in all Member States, in other words, that women, for doing the same kind of work, earn on average 15% less than men. That is intolerable. There is a similar state of affairs as regards gender segregation. Certain jobs, particularly and unfortunately the less well-paid, are even today done to a disproportionate degree by women, and there are still far more women than men doing part-time work. As I see it, the situation continues to be intolerable, and it is one that we need to do something about. Do we need new rules and regulations to deal with this? I do not believe that we do. We now have this piece of legislation, along with the case law on the subject. What matters is, not that we should adopt new and tighter rules, but that the rules we have already enacted should be applied effectively in practice, and the recast directive can make an important contribution towards that. As I have said, we have incorporated the existing legislation and the ECJ’s case law into the recast directive, and in so doing we have taken a practical step towards greater clarity, transparency and hence towards more legal certainty."@en1

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