The Basque Government’s plan to deal with the pay gap, completely fruitless

Jan 08, 2019
The Basque Government made the grandiose announcement that it will allocate 283 million euros over the next two years to eliminate the wage gap. But this strategic plan announced by the Basque Government is insufficient and does not touch the root of the problem; therefore it will be difficult to manage to eradicate it. Additionally, some of the steps included in its proposal are presented as if they had come from ELA. But let us take this opportunity to say loud and clear: our trade union has not taken part in the aforementioned process. On the 16th of April, 2018, ELA presented a document with 32 steps to tackle the wage gap and it sent copies to the Basque Government and to Emakunde. The Basque Government and the Employment Minister did not even deign to answer us. Therefore, our valuation of the attitude of the Autonomous Government is negative.

The document was presented by Amaia Muñoa and Leire Txakartegi, assistant general secretary and person in charge of the equality area of the trade union.

The plan shows a basic deficit from the very start: it does not face up to the true problem involved in the wage gap. The Basque Government’s document only mentions two factors as fundamental when explaining the aforementioned gap: on the one hand, the distribution of work in terms of gender; and on the other hand, the difficulties to reconcile people caring and employment. Consequently, the last point refers above all to the women who are in charge of the care of children and the elderly, and who receive no economic compensation. Therefore, these women are the ones who request maternity leave, part-time work… Women also make up the majority of workers with part-time contracts, as it is the modality used to reconcile employment and work in the home and care for children and the elderly. Therefore, women’s wages are lower, as are their pensions. Not working full-time is penalised.

In any event, although the two reasons mentioned are very important, a third factor must be taken into consideration: women’s job insecurity and the lack of quality of their jobs. It is not possible to understand and eradicate the wage gap without analysing this insecurity.

There are also another two fundamental factors that are not mentioned in the Basque Government’s document: the privatisation of public services (many jobs that should receive the same pay as in the public sector are outsourced and privatised, jobs where mainly women work: cleaning, care homes, school dining rooms…) and the nationalisation of the collective bargaining agreements, that is to say, the application of State agreements in the Basque Autonomous Community, with much lower wages. These agreements are applied particularly in the sectors where women make up most of the work force: telemarketing, large department stores…

Only general steps

The steps proposed by the Basque Government are not enough to eradicate the wage gap. Here are some examples:

Where are the outsourced contracts?

The Basque Government’s plan contemplates the need for the wage gap to undergo a diagnosis, but it does not even mention outsourced contracts. Women are the majority in many of the sectors outsourced by the administrations. As women’s employment is still undervalued, this means it is easier to privatise this work, outsourcing it.

Under the heading of employment policies, the plan also proposes a virtual mailbox where complaints against wage discrimination may be presented. In our opinion, this step is useless, as many women cannot present any complaints, precisely due to their lack of job security. The subject must be dealt with in depth and exemplary sanctions must be imposed on the companies that do not abide by the law.

Restrictions on social expenditure are not even mentioned

If this subject is to be tackled seriously, restrictions on social expenditure must be talked about, as they destroy public employment. But in the Basque Government’s plan these restrictions are not even mentioned. ELA, on the other hand, believes that the right to care of dependent people must be guaranteed. It also considers that free schooling from 0 to 3 years of age must be guaranteed. The plan, on the other hand, does not include these rights.

The budget line is also insufficient

The plan foresees the use of 283 million euros over the next two years to develop the steps included in it. But this figure does not offer a real picture of the situation and this is demonstrated by these three indications:

a) Most of the steps included in the plan had already been approved.

b) 283 million over two years are just over 141 million per year. In four years the figure of 566 million could be reached, but without any change at all in the current situation.

c) The budget for beating fraud in procurement is not even symbolic: 60,000 euros per year. The supposed “emergency plan” also does not seem credible, which will cost 150,000 euros. These amounts are clearly insufficient to increase the human resources necessary to tackle the fraud.

Social dialogue, an inefficient space for monitoring the plan

The Basque Government is proposing the social dialogue round table as the area to coordinate and monitor the plan.

ELA does not take part in this round table, as it does not meet the minimum demandable democratic criteria. Therefore, the main political decisions that can be adopted regarding the wage gap will be taken outside the aforementioned round table; for example, the budget policy.

Additionally, the employer organisations will have their capacity for conditioning the steps against the wage gap acknowledged, in spite of precisely being the promoters of the aforementioned gap.