GSEE women demand increased participation in trade union bodies

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The third conference of female trade unionists in the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE), held in February 1998, has highlighted the serious lack of representation and participation of women in trade union bodies in Greece.

The third Panhellenic conference of female trade unionists in the Greek General Confederation of Labour (GSEE) opened on 5 February 1998 on the theme of "women and employment", and with the principal demand of tackling social exclusion and unemployment among women. The female trade unionists who took part in the three-day conference came from all sectors and all parts of Greece, and were thus representative of many women's problems and demands.

One issue that was heavily discussed was the lack of female representation in decision-making structures and trade union bodies. According to the data presented to the conference, the position of women in the labour market (where they make up over 38% of the workforce) is not reflected in positions of responsibility in the trade union movement, in collective bargaining or in social dialogue. Of 2,067 elected members of the administrations/executive committees of union federations and labour centres, only 133 are women, and in the executive committees of 58 labour centres and 44 federations there are no women at all. Also worth noting is that only three out of the 45 members of the GSEE executive are women, while at the GSEE' s 29th Congress, on the 80th anniversary of its establishment, only 20 out of 520 delegates were women - the lowest percentage for a union confederation in the whole of Europe.

The head of the GSEE women's secretariat spoke about the trade union movement's delay in taking steps to improve women's participation in decision-making structures, both in comparison with the other countries of the European Union, and in comparison with the political parties and local and prefectural government in Greece. She also advocated the need to adopt quotas for female participation in trade union executive committees. The chair of the GSEE pledged to:

  • reinforce the women's secretariat on the institutional level; and
  • study the secretariat's proposals regarding quotas as a measure to encourage participation and more equal representation of women.

However, he stressed that there is a whole range of difficulties associated with implementation of the latter measure, because it involves a fundamental statutory change which may change the electoral system in the GSEE in important ways.

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