Title: Close the gender pay gap
Acronym: Equal
September 2005 - End of 2007
Funded by: ESF Equal program of the European Commission
Status: participation ended per 31-12-06
Partners in the Netherlands: FNV, FNV Bondgenoten, Abvakabo FNV; in Hungary MSZOSZ, GKI Economic Research; in Belgium ACV and HIVA
Project managers: Dirk Dragstra, Paulien Osse, Szolt Packovski, Tim Guily

All men are equal, but men are more equal than women. Ridiculous, yet true - especially when it comes to paid work. Women equally well qualified, nevertheless usually are paid less. How much exactly? In which industries in particular? Can trade unions remedy this inequality?

To find out the Dutch WageIndicator Foundation and trade union movement have initiated 'Close the gender pay gap'. The project is funded by the European Equal-programme. It started in September 2005 and will last till the end of 2007. In the fall of 2005, using the WageIndicator dataset, the zero setting will be measured in a selection of professions and industries.
Simultaneously similar projects are under way in Belgium and Hungary.

Transnational project
At the core of EQUAL lay gender and discrimination in the labour market. In the Netherlands the WageIndicator Foundation took the initiative for 'Close the Gender Pay Gap'.
It acted as the applicant for the grant. This initiative was embraced by the main trade union confederation FNV, AbvaKabo FNV (public sector) and FNV Bondgenoten (manufacturing, transport, commercial services).
As projects must be set up transnationally, in Belgium ACV trade union confederation with the HIVA research institute participates.
Hungary joined the initiative through GKI Economic Research and trade union confederation MSZOSZ. The Hungarian partner acts as secretary of the transnational group.
The project must be completed by the end of 2007.

Main goals
The main goals of the project are:

  1. collective empowerment through trade union negotiators
  2. individual empowerment, awareness raising amongst individual female employees in terms of the long term consequences a career break may have for their lifetime income, improve their capacities to (re)negotiate their wages.

Project approach
The gender pay gap is a hard nut to crack. It remains wide (in the Netherlands 19% in 2002, one of the highest in the EU). It was and is a hot issue for the trade union movement.
Experience suggested that a pincer move is the most promising: increase the assertiveness of individual women, improve their lot through collective agreements. In the project a selection of broadly defined 'target' professions/occupations are the direct beneficiaries.
Final decision-making concerning sectors, professions and occupations is up to the participating unions.
The involvement of FNV Bondgenoten (male dominated profit sector) and AbvaKabo FNV (female dominated public sector) allows for learning from each other's experiences and adopting/adapting tools already tested elsewhere.
The transnational exchange will enhance this effect.
In the last phase of the project experiences drawn from the sectors, occupations and professions chosen will be disseminated throughout the union movement, leading to gender mainstreaming.

2005: choices & tools

  • a life career effect check is developed
  • an online negotiation simulator is developed
  • a zero-setting measurement is carried out through the wage indicator questionnaire
  • a zero-setting measurement of the FNV database on collective agreements
  • dedicated discussions with trade union negotiators are organized

Analysis of this input leads to the selection of sectors, companies and professions.

2006: change

  • individual training courses are given
  • expert meetings are held with union negotiators
  • pr-campaign is developed - tracking, tracing and monitoring of best practices
  • setting up a helpdesk
  • processing of online newsletters
  • first follow up measurements of project results

2007: change and dissemination

  • pr-campaign
  • continued expert meetings with project results as fresh input
  • international meeting and exchange
  • second follow up measurements of project results
  • training sessions for union negotiators