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In late 2004, 35 French companies signed a 'diversity charter'. committing
them to fighting labour market discrimination based on ethnic origin. At the
same time, a report submitted to the government by a leading employers'
representative has advocated proactive policies for recruiting among groups
of /'visible minority'/ people. Meanwhile, the Court of Auditors has been
profoundly critical of the past 30 years of French immigration policy.
The Spanish Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs published an article in
June 2004 on how salaries are set in Spain (Formación de salarios en la
economía española - 2Mb pdf; in Spanish ). The paper seeks to identify
the factors that play a role in determining salaries, and to assess whether
pay differences by gender and type of contract are subject to discrimination.
Economically dependent workers (326 Kb pdf)  constitute a grey area in the
labour market, displaying both employed and self-employed characteristics.
However, they are economically dependent on the company that hires them, and
a significant proportion are, in effect, subordinate employees, who have to
respect work schedules and shifts (e.g. in call centres).
On 1 December 2004, the Centre for Corporate Diversity (CCD) published a
study on the representation of women at company board level and in management
in the Nordic countries. It finds that the board-level representation of
women in Norway is higher than in the other Nordic countries, but that there
are fewer women in management positions than in Sweden and Iceland. Other
studies carried out in the course of 2004 indicate similar developments.
Although Norwegian companies are doing well in comparison with other
countries, the proportion of women on company boards is still far from the
objective of 40% set by the Norwegian government in 2003 (NO0306106F ). To
achieve this end, new regulations came into force in publicly-owned companies
on 1 January 2004 (see below). In response to the new regulations, the
Confederation of Norwegian Business and Industry (Næringslivets
Hovedorganisasjon, NHO) has initiated a gender equality programme called
'Female Future', which is an attempt to speed up the process of getting more
women onto the board and into management positions in Norwegian companies
through education and networking.
On 6 December 2004, a government-appointed committee presented its
recommendations on how to reduce 'underemployment'. The committee’s mandate
was to examine the extent of part-time work in Norway and to propose measures
to reduce the occurrence of 'underemployment' or 'involuntary' part-time
work. The level of part-time work is comparatively high in Norway, and may be
explained by a high labour market participation rate, in particular among
women. Although underemployment is not regarded as a general problem, it
nevertheless poses a challenge in some female-dominated sectors of the
national economy. Thus among the measures considered by the committee was the
introduction of a statutory right for part-time workers to increase their
working hours through being given preference in relation to new or vacant
positions. The report  of the committee is now to be considered by the
In an effort to reduce operating and payroll costs, a number of Greek
enterprises, mostly in the area of banking and public utilities, turned to
early retirement and other 'voluntary exit' schemes in late 2004. The
reaction of trade unions varied from case to case, with plans to cut the
workforce at the Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation (OTE) proving
The main legal act dealing with the resolution of collective labour disputes
and the calling and organisation of strikes and lock-outs is the Collective
Labour Dispute Resolution Act (which entered into force in June 1993)
(EE0402102F ). A collective labour dispute is defined as a disagreement
between an employer or an association of employers and employees or a union
of employees that arises from entry into, or performance of, collective
agreements, or from the establishment of new employment conditions
(EE0309102F ). The parties must consult the public conciliator in writing
if an agreement is not reached through negotiations and the threat of a
disruption of work arises. The right of employees to organise a strike to
resolve a labour dispute arises only if: there is no prohibition against
disruption of work in force; the conciliation procedure is not successful; an
agreement is not complied with; or a court order is not executed.
In the mid-1990s, the Confederation of Christian Trade Unions
(Confédération des Syndicats Chrétiens/Algemeen Christelijk Vakverbond,
CSC/ACV) - Belgium's largest trade union organisation - launched a 'plan for
the future', aimed at more work, more fiscal justice and more social
security. In late 2004, CSC/ACV revised the plan, which calls for an
alternative financing of the social security system, and started a renewed
campaign to promote its content.