4th Social Forum of Energy Community – EPSU says address restructuring

(6 November 2011) The conclusions address the social action plans, their implementation and monitoring. They also consider the involvement of the social partners in the Social Action Plans, address fuel poverty and consumer protection and the social dimension of change and restructuring.

For the conclusions: www.energy-community.org (5 October 2011)

When Ukraine and Moldova joined the Energy Community for South East Europe, EPSU and its affiliates demanded that they also sign the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the Social Aspects of the Energy Community. Due to the union pressure the MoU was signed by Prime Minister of Moldova Valeru Lazar and the Deputy Minister for Fuels Volodymyr Makukha, Ukraine, 4 October 2011 in Chisinau, capital of Moldova (social forum 4 October).

The prime minister recognized that implementing the Internal market for electricity and gas will require reforms and will increase prices for electricity and gas when moving towards cost-based pricing. This will have a huge impact on low income households. Building an appropriate social security system is needed to address this. He also underlined that the Moldovan government will support and encourage the Involvement of the social partners as it seeks to be an active partner in the MoU process. The Deputy Minister for Fuels Volodymyr Makukha signed on behalf of the Ukraine. The head of the EU delegation in Moldova Dirk Schuebel stressed the combined objectives of moving forward in both the economic and social dimension of the EU. He underlined that the MoU addresses the social consequences for low incomes households as well as the workforce and especially the low skilled. The governments together with the social partners should anticipate and manage change, strengthening the social dialogue, and developing effective mechanisms for information and consultation. The signatory governments further write up to the European and international fundamental. The Social Forum brings together employers, trade unions, governments, regulators and representatives of countries which provide funding.

Three topics were considered:

  • The state of play regarding the social action plans. Each country is committed to develop these. EPSU’s Jan Willem Goudriaan noted that while progress has been made regarding collective agreements and social dialogue, the social action plans do insufficiently address the restructuring of the sector and its employment consequences. On behalf of the European social partners (Eurogas and Eurelectric) he stressed this should be a priority for the next year also in light of the findings of the study for the Commission on the impact on employment from the opening up of the electricity and gas markets. This predicts that there will be a loss of jobs of around 1/3, similar as in the EU. The European social partners also urged the Ukrainian and Moldovan governments to set up the national working groups quickly and involve the trade unions.
  • Protection of low income households. Liberalisation will lead to higher prices but many households can not afford these. Examples were given of people having to pay 20-30 % of their income on electricity and gas bills. High gas prices are a particular problem in Moldova with gas coming from Russia and the major gas company being owned by Gazprom. Several examples were provided of schemes to protect low income households.
  • Restructuring. The impact on employment from liberalization was demonstrated by the figures of a study and contributions of companies.

EPSU’s Jan Willem Goudriaan presented the toolkit on restructuring of the European electricity social partners. Slatcho Neykov, the leader of the Energy Community Secretariat underlined the importance of involving all stakeholders including the trade unions in the process.