Greens blast SPÖ over gender pay discrimination

By Lisa Chapman

Green speaker for women's affairs Judith Schwentner has blamed the SPÖ for disparities between wages for men and women.

She called Social Democratic (SPÖ) Women’s Minister Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek’s initiative for more transparency in incomes "nothing more than an expensive image campaign by the government."

Schwentner claimed there had been no progress in past years despite the fact that the SPÖ had been controlling the women’s ministry.

Monica Vana, a Vienna Green councillor and the city party’s spokeswoman for women, added that women had to work an extra 96 days on average to earn as much as men in Austria.

Vana called on the SPÖ "finally to undertake measures to close the income gap."

The Greens made their comments in anticipation of 27 September, the "Equal Pay" day.

Heinisch-Hosek had called for fines for firms guilty of gender pay discrimination last June.

Heinisch-Hosek, who was elected head of the SPÖ’s women’s organisation then to succeed SPÖ First President of Parliament Barbara Prammer, demanded that all firms with 25 or more employees open their books to public scrutiny.

The minister added that firms at which women who had completed a two-year probationary period were not being paid as much as men for the same work should face fines of up to tens of thousands of Euros.

SPÖ Social Minister Rudolf Hundstorfer had backed the proposal, Heinisch-Hosek said, adding she expected it to be put into legislation on equal rights.

She added she also expected People’s Party (ÖVP) Economy Minister Reinhold Mitterlehner would give the planned fines a green light as well.

But Mitterlehner rejected the idea of fines. He said: "I don’t think much of that idea as long as we haven’t tried all possible incentives to reach the same goal."

Hundstorfer said fines were unlikely for the time being, and negotiations with businesses would be required before they could be enacted. But he agreed that firms should be required to open their books to the public.

ÖVP State Secretary for Families Christine Marek also said she did not expect to see fines any time soon. "We will gain nothing from shooting from the hip," she said.

Heinisch-Hosek had previously also called for women to constitute at least 40 per cent of all businesses’ supervisory boards. But she backed down and called for a doubling of the number of women on company boards after Mitterlehner said he was opposed to the idea.

In fact, women do earn less than men for the same work in Austria.

Women receive just over three quarters of the salary of men doing the same work, according to new figures on gender wage inequality released on Wednesday this week.

Statistik Austria reported women working full-time earned, on average, only 78 per cent as much as men in the same fields.

It said the average income of a male full-time worker had been 34,866 Euros last year compared to 27,358 Euros for a female full-time worker.

The agency said the difference had been smallest in the case of civil servants and largest in the case of white-collar employees. Female civil servants received 98 per cent of male civil servants’ incomes on average whereas female white-collar employees received only 64 per cent as much as male white-collar employees.

Women working part-time made only 59 per cent as much as men or 16,748 Euros on average last year compared to 28,226 Euros for men.

Female civil servants working part-time made 91 per cent as much as their male counterparts, whereas female workers made only 44 per cent of male workers’ incomes last year, the agency said.