Economic situation and workers’ rights, organizing, privatization, PSI Congress top agenda in Russia-Central Asia constituency

(3 March 2017)  Outsourcing of laundry services in hospitals, the establishment of private clinics and how to represent and defend workers were some of the developments that confront the Kyrgyz and Tajik health unions. They discussed with colleagues of the Russian unions their experience as outsourcing and privatization have effected health, municipal and energy services considerably in the Russia. The unions considered the economic and social situation. Internal and external factors have an impact and the lack of growth in Russia effects Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. The unions adopted a position (English & Russian) highlighting the need for public investment and pay increases to get the economies going again. Privatisation and Public-Private Partnerships are not the way to go. The unions stressed the need to protect workers’ rights, the right to strike and collective bargaining. The role of the social dialogue at all levels was emphasized. Overall more funding in public services and infrastructure is needed to meet the demands of people.

Mirbek Asanakunov, the President of the Kyrgyz Trade Union Federation opened the meeting. In his contribution he highlighted the work of the trade unions regarding the changes in the Labour Code, addressing poverty and the central issues leading up to the elections in November. Collective agreements cover close to 80 % of the workforce. One of the biggest issues for the unions is the lack of respect for health and safety by employers. The unions successfully resisted attempts to weaken the health and safety legislation.

One of the other main topics considered by the unions was recruitment of members and especially young workers. Dmitriy Zakusilov of the Russian health workers trade union and leading the youth organizing work provided examples of the methods used. The union is working with skilled trainers and focusing on recruitment and making young workers active by giving them a voice and addressing their demands. The union is rolling out a plan with targets to increase membership in specific areas and in hospitals and training institutions.  It seeks to combine recruitment and marketing techniques with face to face and workplace organizing.  An issue in many countries of former soviet orientated states remains the issue of what is expected from unions in a context where many issues are arranged in the Labour Code rather than through bargaining.

The EPSU General Secretary addressed the priorities for EPSU. He focused on organising and recruitment, the work around tax and whistleblowing to fight corruption, climate change, and trade. Our demands for a progressive and fair trade agenda have gained in prominence. He echoed the concerns of the unions in the constituency regarding the need to get out of the economic crisis, and our work on demanding public investment is gaining more support. European unions started the Pay raise campaign.

Olga Klimova from the Russian Local Industries and Life Support Services spoke about the work of the EPSU Women and Gender Equality and the PSI Women’s Committee. She stressed the importance of gender mainstreamining, gender parity and how the Women’s Committee contributed to the reading of the PSI Programme of Action. This was introduced by Sandra Vermuyten of the PSI Secrretariat. The PSI Programme of Action People before profits – Our time to lead will be proposed for the PSI Congress 31 October – 3 November, Geneva. The programme that also exists in Russian focuses on the concerns of public service workers and how we want to make progress together. It addresses how trade unions can contribute to change, reduce inequalities and bring social justice. With a focus on the future it will give the unions the guidelines and direction for our actions for the next 5 years, when we talk with global institutions, work with NGOs and address governments. The constitutional changes proposed were introduced by the EPSU General Secretary.  The time table for amendments and resolutions of the unions was considered. Nominations for the PSI Board and Women’s Committee were proposed.

The constituency meeting further considered the EPSU financial situation and confirmed the representative for the Finance working group.

The meeting took place in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, 28 February- 1 March 2017. Unions from Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan joined.

For reports of the meetings (members only area) including on the actions of the unions and on the economic and social situation in the constituency.

Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Russia Tajikistan