David Cameron’s lack of regard for women’s rights has yet again been highlighted this week.
Sadly, the EU’s draft Maternity Leave Directive has been officially withdrawn after it was blocked by a number of national governments, including the UK. I wrote to the previous Tory-led government asking them to continue discussions on this important matter, which would benefit the lives of millions of women throughout Europe. Unsurprisingly, they failed to act and the current Tory government also refrained from fighting for the rights of women across the EU.
The directive included a number of measures aimed at protecting and strengthening the rights of pregnant women and women returning to work after pregnancy, including a minimum maternity leave duration of 18 weeks.
Mothers deserve the right to choose if they want to return to work, and they should be supported and protected if they decide to do so. David Cameron’s blocking of this protection for mothers sends a negative message to working parents across Europe.
The lack of maternity rights is often cited as a main reason behind the persisting gender pay gap. With differences of 16% in the EU, 19% in the UK and 12% in the East Midlands, it is obvious that urgent action is needed.
Labour MEPs are calling for a new European proposal. Women deserve the choice to work and I hope that David Cameron reconsiders the worth of women in the workforce in time for the next proposal.
Glenis Willmott MEP
Last weekend saw riot police in Istanbul, Turkey, using tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannon to disperse the annual gay pride parade. It is not clear why police tried to disrupt the riot, and why such heavy-handed methods were used, because the event is well established.
Meanwhile, we’ve seen equal marriage made legal for more than 200 million people this year, with the US Supreme Court ruling that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional, and the Irish people voting to recognise the marriage rights of their fellow citizens.
All over the world, people openly celebrate LGBTI pride, with thousands of people showing their support for equality and marching proudly with their partners, friends and families.
But events in Istanbul remind us that we can never be complacent, and that the fight for equal rights and protections for LGBTI people is ongoing. This week I signed a letter written by my Labour colleague Seb Dance that called for the European Commissioner responsible for LGBTI rights to make it clear to Turkish authorities that breaking up peaceful protests for LGBTI rights is absolutely unacceptable.
As an EU candidate country, Turkey has to satisfy a number of conditions. Upholding human rights, and therefore the rights of LGBTI people, is one of them, and this should be non-negotiable.
Glenis Willmott MEP
Roaming charges in the EU will end in 2017, and there will be an EU-wide ban on the creation of a two-speed internet.
MEPs reached a deal with their European co-legislators today on the Telecoms Single Market package, which will see a decrease in roaming charges from April 30, 2016 until the official end to roaming charges on June 15, 2017.
The agreement will also bring more certainty to net neutrality provisions, and means the internet will remain open. The creation of a two-speed internet in Europe will be prohibited – internet service providers will not be able to give paying customers better service than less financially lucrative traffic.
Throughout the negotiations, which have taken more than a year, Labour MEPs insisted on a clear end-date for roaming costs in the face of mounting opposition from national governments.
Labour MEPs have also said that all internet traffic should be treated equally, without discrimination or restriction, and that limited traffic management should be possible where it pertains to child protection measures and to give priority to emergency services, where necessary.
Today’s agreement will mean public-interest exceptions to the principle of net neutrality can continue in very limited circumstances and internet service providers can block internet traffic for the purpose of countering cyber-attacks or child pornography.
East Midlands MEP, Glenis Willmott, said:
“It is an important step forward to have an agreement set in stone on a date to end roaming charges, but we would have liked to have seen it sooner.
“It is great that under the first ever EU-wide open internet rules, operators will have to treat all traffic equally when providing internet access services. Blocking or controlling will be allowed only in a limited number of circumstances and only to protect consumers and citizens from harmful content.
“We now urge national governments to formally accept the proposed text as soon as possible.”
“Today’s agreement will mean an end to outrageous phone-bills for consumers when they return from their holiday and also gives governments the flexibility they need to ensure children remain safe on the internet.”
Labour MEPs today called for the eurozone to offer Greece a bailout extension and better terms ahead of Sunday’s referendum, or risk a No vote that would plunge the country deeper into chaos.
Glenis Willmott MEP, Labour’s Leader in the European Parliament, said:
“As always it is the people that suffer the most – the failures of successive Greek governments have wrought a terrible toll on the country. Alexis Tsipras talks a good game but his intransigence and arrogance has left Greece staring into the abyss.
“The choice the Greek people face on Sunday is not an easy one, but if they are to get out of this mess a deal must be done. The eurozone should extend the financial programme, giving a final push for a fairer deal to put before the Greek public.
“They should also revise the solidarity grant on low pensions, to ensure protection of the poorest pensioners and their families, and eurozone leaders must commit to a review of the long-term sustainability of Greece’s debt – currently running at 180 per cent of GDP – by the end of the year.
“One of the major benefits of European Union membership should be ever-increasing prosperity – yet for Greece the recent experience of ordinary people has been one of poverty and hardship, and unless the EU and Greek government change their approaches the situation will only get worse.”