(27 March 2023) The Hungarian childcare workers are demanding negotiations with the government on a new pay structure with the government. The union has collected more than 5000 signatures, has support of mayors of towns and villages and has had actions in over 250 workplaces. The Hungarian government remains silent and does not want to negotiate a better valuation of the work of the mostly female workforce delivering quality childcare. The more than 55 trade union leaders from the Central European and Western Balkan countries expressed their support and signed the petition. The lack of negotiations a paternalistic attitude of the government.
Recruitment and organising
The membership development of unions in the countries of the constituency is mixed. Some unions experience growth and set up new local unions while others experience decline. The EPSU organising team explained the approach and possibilities for unions to work on strategic plans leading to positive results. Presentations were given of the work of the health and social care workers in the Czech republic and the childcare workers in Hungary. The number of unions taking organising seriously is growing.
EPSU Congress 2024
The union leaders discussed the preparation of the EPSU Congress in 2024. Issues raised included: many countries in the region have not signed the collective complaint mechanism of the Council of Europe despite the fact that all countries aspire to be members of the EU or are already; the lack of effective enforcement of EU social directives in some countries; the retirement age is being raised, often without consultation like in the Czech republic. Unions foresee a demonstration on the 29th of March. Addressing health and safety in the programme of action for Congress is important. Improvements for workers can be made through EU-level legislation. Amendments to the EPSU constitution were debated.
Defamation law in Republic of Srpske
We looked at the PSI Congress and the union leaders nominated Ivana Brenkova (Czech health workers union) as titular. She is currently the chair of the constituency. Trpe Deanoski was nominated as substitute. He comes from the NorthMacedonian union of state and judicial workers. The ETUC Congress in May 2023, the EPSU Women’s conference 24 November were other topics. The government of the republic of Srpske in Bosnia-Herzegovina has recently adopted a defamation law. It would make critique on the government a criminal offence. The law is seen by the unions, the European Commission, our colleagues of the European Federation of Journalists and many others as a step back in implementing the human rights frameworks. It goes against the values of the Council of Europe and the EU. We condemned the law.
Updates were given on wage negotiations, protests and issues related to trade union rights like the difficulty of implementing the right to strike in public services in Montenegro. It exists on paper but the restrictions put in place including for minimum services levels make it very cumbersome and time consuming to exercise. The Committee of Experts of the Council of European’s European Social Charter has condemned Montenegro for these excessive restrictions. The government of Kosovo introduced an online registration platform for trade union members. It effectively destroyed some of the most powerful unions which had to register all their members again. EPSU protested this law. The union is able to regain ground but lost thousands of members.
The meeting took place 23 and 24 March 2023 in Budapest. The EPSU General Secretary and the organising team participated. The meeting was chaired by Ivana Brenkova and Vladimir Pavičević Montenegro health union. The Central Europe Western Balkan constituency are unions in Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Kosovo, Montenegro, North-Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia and Slovenia