Best clauses from Collective Agreements to help vulnerable workers throughout the EU

In volatile European labour markets where flexibility is in high demand, special attention must be given to the most vulnerable workers in precarious jobs. This is the major recommendation from an expert meeting at the University of Amsterdam, which concluded a 2-year project focusing on gender pay gaps in the EU and innovative means to reduce those gaps.

Vulnerable workers are more than average female, and/or belong to ethnic minorities and migrant groups, the experts concluded. These groups lack career perspectives, job security and affordable child care arrangements. Many find temporary work only through employment agencies and are confined to low skilled menial jobs in retail, cleaning and care in particular. Their wages are lower end. Exhausting working hours leave them little time to recover, let alone to study after work. Moreover they are confronted with structural pay gaps that contribute to the perpetuation of their plight. The pay gap does not stop at the male/female divide, the experts found, but confronts all those disenfranchised in their working lives.

Secondary working conditions reveal gender gaps too

Part of the research carried out by the project-team was to conduct an unprecedented analysis from survey-data on secondary working conditions. The data was collected by means of the permanent online survey fielded by the WageIndicator Foundation through its national websites in all participating EU-member states. The data collection allowed for an in depth analysis of topics such as company benefits, allowances, emoluments, compensation, facilitated participation in child care and pension schemes and the like. The focus of this analysis was on gender, i.e. are the national gender pay gaps found reflected in the secondary working conditions prevailing in the country? The overall outcome was that the secondary conditions to a large extent mirror the gender pay gaps found in each labour market. There are a few exceptions to this rule however, i.e. Slovenia and Poland in particular, where women have seen fit over last decades to come alongside their male colleagues in terms of these additional sources of income, both moneywise and otherwise.

Best practice from companies across borders

One of the remedies found by the experts was that trade union negotiators throughout Europe could exchange clauses from the Collective Agreements which they conclude with employers. Such cross breeding of best practices might improve the efficacy of their work in defence of those most vulnerable groups in particular. One such outstanding best practice would be to include in each Collective Agreement a monitoring clause on the implementation of specific measures on contracts, pay, promotion, information, job certification and co-responsibility for child care. A monitoring plan for the implementation of such clauses, jointly supervised by trade union and the company human resources department, is a proven 'best practice' in some sectors already. The final report of the Gender Pay Gap-project includes a list of more 'best practice'-clauses from across EU-member states.

Database to facilitate borrowing of best clauses

WageIndicator, participant in the Gender Pay Gap-project of which the main results are presented here, over the last few years initiated and elaborated a database of Collective Agreements. Currently it contains annotated, i.e. easily retrievable clauses from some 700 Collective Agreements and a wide variety of sectors and countries. The database is freely accessible through its national websites and therefore easy to consult by negotiators from both employers and employees organisations. In it the clauses and best practices may be found referred to above. It is WageIndicator policy to continue broadening, enriching and detailing this Collective Agreement database for the free use of all to whom it may be of concern. WageIndicator invites all parties concerned to contribute the agreements they conclude to its database.

The expert group consisted of University of Amsterdam, Wageindicator, Dutch Confederation of Trade Unions (FNV), CCOO Servicos Spain, MSZOZ Hungary.

Link to example of Best clauses in Collective Agreements, with a focus on women, gender pay gap and care arrangements.

What is the WITA-Gender Pay Gap project?

With Innovative Tools Against Gender Pay Gap – WITA GPG (January 2015 - December 2016) aims to make a significant contribution in reducing the large and enduring gender pay gap. It is made possible by the European Commission PROGRESS program Action Grant nr. 4000004929. One of the activities is to compare male and female wages at the level of occupational groups and release the results for publication at the national WageIndicator websites of all 28 EU-member states and Turkey, as well as dissemination though press releases.

More information about the WITA project

More information about Gender Pay Gap in the United Kingdom at