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This International Women’s Day, EFFAT welcomes the European Commission’s Gender Equality Strategy 2020-2025. Released earlier this week, the Strategy echoes several of EFFAT’s key longstanding demands in the field of workplace gender equality, including combating sexual harassment, ensuring equal pay and mainstreaming gender policies and discourse.

EFFAT has for many years called on relevant authorities to address widespread sexual harassment and violence, including in the workplace – and published last year its zero tolerance recommendations for trade unions. According to the Commission press release accompanying the launch of its Strategy, 33% of women in the EU have been the victim of physical and/or sexual violence, and 55% have experienced sexual harassment. These are shaming statistics. Although well past time for serious action, EFFAT is pleased to see Commission President von der Leyen building explicitly on the commitment in her political guidelines to a Union of Equality.

EFFAT believes wholeheartedly that no worker should have to go to work in fear of violence or harassment. That is why, in November 2019 EFFAT wrote, along with 50 other fellow unions, a joint letter to President von der Leyen, offering support in the fight against sexual harassment and violence against women and urging action to facilitate the proper implementation in all Member States the Istanbul Convention and full ratification of ILO Convention C190.

In addition, EFFAT welcomes further commitments from the Commission to tackling the gender pay gap, including a commitment to binding pay transparency measures by the end of 2020. EFFAT is advocating for – and participated in an ETUC-led public demonstration outside the Commission building calling for – a Directive on Gender Pay Transparency and will continue pushing the Commission to adopt this approach. Representing sectors with a gender pay gap as high as 29%, with the numerous knock-on effects for women throughout their working life that brings, EFFAT will not shy away from urging action on this issue at every available opportunity.

Finally, EFFAT is pleased to see the Commission talking about the need for “integrating a gender perspective in all EU policies”. EFFAT has been promoting gender mainstreaming for years in all EFFAT policy fields, and will continue to do so as part of its ambition to modernise the trade union movement and recruit more women trade union members and leaders. Building on this commitment, EFFAT will be developing a new, strong gender policy, learning from and providing guidance to affiliates on awareness-raising strategies, as well as pinpointing key collective bargaining demands. EFFAT awaits with interest further evidence from the Commission of its undertaking on gender mainstreaming.

EFFAT is also seeking to step up the conversation around work-life balance and reduced working time without pay cuts. To this end, EFFAT’s Executive Committee, held in Brussels on 3-4 March, invited ETUC Head of Trade Union Policy, Juliane Bir, to give a presentation on the work-life balance Directive; members were able to discuss the ETUC transposition toolkit and the importance of going even further than the prescriptions of the Directive.

On International Women’s Day, EFFAT also joins with the ETUC in urging caution in relation to Artificial Intelligence given its serious potential to reinforce existing gender disparities and stereotypes within and without the workplace.

Today and every day, EFFAT unites with trade unions across Europe and the world in championing the contribution of women workers, and renews its pledge to fight for equal opportunities, non-discrimination, equal pay and an end to workplace sexual violence and harassment.