Discrimination against women workers needs to be redressed

ICFTU Online, 028/040200/DD, 4 February 2000

Brussels February 4 2000 (ICFTU OnLine):The continuing discrimination facing women at work in Iceland mars Iceland's record with regard to respect of core labour standards, says a new ICFTU report out today.

The latest report on core labour standards brought out by the ICFTU to complement the WTO's own trade policy review of the country says that Iceland's law in practice in terms of basic workers' rights generally complies with internationally recognised standards, but that there are significant problems in the areas of equal pay and promotion prospects for women at work.

Despite the 1991 Equal Status and Equal Rights of Women and Men Act which prohibits discrimination at work, recent research indicates that there is still a 16% wage difference between women and men, and that women remain concentrated in the lower-paid commerce or service occupations. According to an Icelandic government study, the wage gap between men and women is greater for workers with more educational qualifications, and men continue to dominate all major political institutions and businesses.

In terms of other labour rights, Iceland has ratified the two core labour standards giving workers the right to join unions, to negotiate, and to strike if necessary. However, the ILO Committee on Freedom of Association has criticised various government actions as interference with the rights of trade unions to bargain freely with employers, and has asked the government to refrain from using such measures of legislative intervention.

In conclusion the ICFTU says that the Icelandic government should take measures to ensure that there is no discrimination against women at work, for example by addressing the serious wage differentials and the occupational constraints on employing women. The ICFTU says that the Equal Rights Affairs Office of the Ministry of Social Affairs should be given more autonomy, and be transformed from an advisory institution to one with powers to make binding recommends to employers to enforce the law on equal rights.