EPSU and ILO training centre launch new project

(12 February 2015) Representatives of EPSU affiliates from 17 countries in Central and Eastern Europe took part in the launch workshop of a new project on Decent Work for Workers’ in Public Services. This is an International Labour Organisation (ILO) and European Commission backed project, implemented in partnership with EPSU. The launch meeting took place in Brussels on 11-12 February and discussed the main themes of the four workshops and final conference that would take place during 2015.

The participants were welcomed by Evelin Toth, Activity Manager in charge of Europe at the ILO International Training Centre in Turin and EPSU Deputy General Secretary Penny Clarke. Evelin explained that this was the first major project involving trade unions in the public services in Europe. Penny welcomed the collaboration with the training centre and underlined the importance of this project aimed at all affiliates in Central and Eastern Europe, both inside and outside the European Union.

The ITC-ILO had obtained funding from the European Commission which meant that they could cover the costs related to all EU Member States and Candidate Countries (see below for list of countries in project and meetings). EPSU had decided that this project provided an excellent opportunity to bring in its affiliates from outside the EU and had committed additional funding to cover their participation in the relevant workshops and final conference.

Evelin gave participants an introduction into the work of ITC-ILO and the lessons learnt from previous projects involving European trade union federations. Many of the issues were familiar to EPSU affiliates including the attacks on collective bargaining, erosion of social dialogue and spread of precarious employment.

ILO Convention 151 on labour relations in public services

Carlos Carrion Crespo, public service sector specialist at the ILO, gave a detailed introduction on ILO Convention 151 on labour relations in the public services. Carlos explained that this directive had some special provisions that couldn’t be found in other Conventions, relating, for example, to rights to trade union representation and arbitration. He also pointed out that a number of countries had ratified the convention in recent years and it was under consideration in other countries, including Serbia.

Main challenges for EPSU affiliates

Richard Pond of EPSU provided an overview of some of the key challenges facing EPSU affiliates in recent years with the austerity imposed at national level by many governments endorsed and even reinforced by the policies of the European Commission and European Central Bank as well as the International Monetary Fund. With these three acting together as the Troika to impose particularly harsh policies on countries like Ireland, Greece, Portugal and Cyprus.

ILO guide to social dialogue

Jeff Bridgeford, former head of the European Trade Union Institute’s training department introduced participants to the ILO’s guide to social dialogue of which he was co-author. Jeff stressed the fact that the guide was not so much aimed at experts like those at the meeting but was meant to provide the trainers on the national level with material to use to inform and train their members and activists.

Content of workshops

Participants were divided into working groups in order to discuss the main themes of the meeting and to plan the content and organisation of the four workshops. Those involved in discussing the meeting in Slovakia wanted the focus to be on collective bargaining and social dialogue as well as information and consultation and the right to strike.

Representatives of the countries meeting in Montenegro were concerned about trade union pluralism, the image of trade unions and use of the media as well as collective bargaining and the right to strike. Those planning the Estonian meeting wanted to discuss strike action, organising and recruitment with a particular focus on getting information to younger workers, and collective bargaining and social dialogue. Finally, the meeting in Bulgaria would look in detail at recruitment, retention and organising with consideration of young workers’ needs as well as those of particular groups of workers such as migrants.

Countries included in the project

16 countries covered by ITC-ILO/European Commission funding: Albania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, (FYRO) Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Turkey

12 countries covered by EPSU funding: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kosovo , Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine

The planned training activities are listed below. Apart from the final conference, each of the workshops is planned to be a two-and-a-half day event with participants arriving on the previous day and leaving in the afternoon on the final day. So travel arrangements should fit into this timetable if possible.

Project workshops and final conference

21-23 April – Slovakia (Bratislava)

- Participants arrive on 20th and depart after lunch on 23rd
- Countries: Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and Ukraine
- Languages: Slovak, Hungarian, Polish, English and Russian

16-18 June – Montenegro (Budva)

- Participants arrive on 15th and depart after lunch on 18th
- Countries: Albania, Bosnia-Hercegovina, Croatia, Kosovo (UNSCR 1244), (FYRO) Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia
- Languages: Albanian, Croatian/Serbian and English

7-9 July – Estonia (Tallinn)

- Participants arrive on 6th and depart after lunch on 9th
- Countries: Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Tajikistan
- Languages: Estonian, Russian and English

2-4 September – Bulgaria

- Participants arrive on 1st and depart after lunch on 4th
- Countries: Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Moldova, Romania, Turkey
- Languages: Bulgarian, Romanian, Turkish and English

30 November-1 December – Italy (Turin)
This will be a full two-day conference and so participants will arrive on 29th and depart either at end of day on 1st or on 2nd
Final conference at ILO-ACTRAV with around 50 participants from EU Member States and Candidate Countries and 10+ from other countries.