London MEP draws a line in the sand over potential EU equal-pay legislation
Conservative MEPs are to oppose an EU report which would be an open invitation to Commissioners to draw up another raft of intrusive, Europe-wide social legislation on matters that should be left to member states.
While committed to closing the gender pay-gap, Conservative MEPs will vote against the report, entitled Equal Pay for Male and Female Workers for Equal Work of Equal Value. The report has been drawn up by Slovak Christian Democrat Edit Bauer MEP and will be put before the European Parliament on Thursday.
Conservative MEPs believe that the report crosses the red line of Member State competence and if approved would be a “green light” for meddlesome “one size fits all” regulation and red tape, it is feared.
Marina Yannakoudakis, Conservative spokesman on women’s rights and gender equality in the European Parliament, said: “I have long campaigned for companies to ensure equal pay for work of equal value, but I have to oppose this report. Of course I believe that men and women should receive equal treatment in the workplace, but if the European Commission gets a notion to legislate on the matter it will ultimately be bad for business and bad for women.
“Clearly the gender pay gap remains a problem. In the UK, the full-time gap is over 10% and the overall difference between men and women’s pay is nearly 20%. In some countries in Eastern Europe, the gap is as large as 30%.
“This is unacceptable, but new EU legislation is no solution.
“The UK is already well served by legislation on equal pay. The Equal Pay Act of 1970 very simply prohibits employment contracts with terms which are more favourable to one or the other gender.
“But EU social legislation is notoriously rigid and onerous, to say nothing of the limits it places on economic growth. The EU Working Time Directive is already estimated by the British Chambers of Commerce to cost the UK economy is £1.8 billion a year. EU legislation on equal pay could have equally unwelcome consequences for business and an end result which would almost certainly fail to close the gender pay gap.”
The London MEP added: “I believe that companies need to act voluntarily to break down the barriers which women face in the workplace. Family-friendly businesses, equal pay for equal work, flexible working, using the skills of women to drive the economic recovery: these are all common sense initiatives. And it is precisely because it’s common sense that the European Union should steer clear of legislation.”