Austria: Government ministers awarded for ‘shameless hypocrisy on women’s rights’

On International Women’s Day, CWI activists protest against austerity package hitting women

As part of protests on International Women’s Day, activists from Sozialistische LinksPartei (Socialist Left Party, CWI in Austria) organised an “Award for shameless hypocrisy on women’s rights” for leading members of the SPÖ (Social Democratic Party) politicians and members of government.

The SPÖ has tried to present itself as a fighting force for women’s rights – despite having just presented an austerity package of 28 billion euro that will massively affect women. (The SPÖ is currently in a government coalition with the conservative People’s Party, struggling with bailing out banks and saving their triple ‘A’ status). Austerity measures include a wage freeze for two years in the public sector, lower pension rises for the next two years, cuts in the health system and communal services, as well as big cuts in the public sector and pensions generally. This package means a massive deterioration of the situation facing women, both in terms of pay, as well as an increase in unpaid labour.

The first of our three awards in Vienna was given to leading SPÖ politicians, Laura Rudas and Sandra Frauenberger. Rudas is Bundesgeschäftsführerin (general secretary), of the SPÖ, and Frauenberger is member of the city government of Vienna, responsible for the women’s department. They were irritated to receive the awards, as they like to present themselves as successful fighters for women’s rights. While Rudas did not really answer our criticism of the austerity measures, Frauenberger stated that the situation of women in Vienna was so good that we would not succeed in finding fault with her politics.

Women’s Minister gets second and third award!

The second award was received by the Women’s Minister, Heinisch-Hosek, and Andrea Mautz, general secretary of the SPÖ women’s organisation. An SPÖ activist tried to counter our criticisms by arguing that the wages of public sector workers in Vienna were high anyway. While this is true for people like Heinisch-Hosek (on 16.320 euro monthly) this is certainly not true for female public sector workers in Vienna, such as Kindergarten employees (who had been protesting for higher wages for some years).

Heinisch-Hosek received our third (and her second) award as part of the International Women’s Day demonstration, during a public meeting she was speaking at. She was obviously not flattered. Instead of an acceptance speech, Heinisch-Hosek reacted with “Again? Why?” The reason for the third award was because Heinisch-Hosek is not only Women’s Minister but also Minister for public sector workers, i.e. she is directly involved in making cuts in the public sector. We received applause from the audience at Heinisch-Hosek’s public meeting for our protest!

Our protests were also covered by the media. The SLP general secretary, Sonja Grusch, was interviewed on (the online women’s edition of one of the major centre-left newspapers) about the ’awards’ and there was coverage of our protests on (one of the major tabloids in Vienna). We also sold newspapers and gave out leaflets to people on the street who passed by the protests and the International Women’s Day demonstration, receiving a warm response. We were the only ones on the demonstration to openly criticise the cuts!

Socialist Left Party (CWI in Austria) demands to end austerity and for increase spending on health, education, social services etc. Instead of public sector cuts and cuts in pensions, women need higher wages, pensions on which they can live decently, shorter working hours, with full pay, and decent free childcare. As long as these objectives are lacking, the SPÖ politicians can look forward to the same awards next year.

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March 2012