Equality, organizing, PSI congress and social rights discussed in North East European constituency in Yerevan

(22 February 2017) The discussions with the representatives of the Armenian ministry of social affairs and social protection became very animated when the issue of the right to strike was considered. For some strikes notice needs to be given 2 weeks in advance in Armenia. Other workers like in electricity do not have the right to strike. Trade union colleagues gave examples of how the right to strike was regulated and what we regard as best practice like the right to strike in energy. Another debated topic concerned the role of collective agreements in the economy and their near absence in sectors.  The unions were participating in the North East European constituency meeting. Armenian colleagues reported on their battle to prevent cuts in public services.

One of the main topics considered was recruitment of members, the relation between central and local organisations in the unions and the various obstacles. Several examples were shared of newly established trade unions and increases in membership. A first test was made of a survey to get a better grip on levels of union density in the different countries. It will help the unions to understand where our gaps are and in which sectors we have to concentrate to make us stronger. A particular concern are the attitudes of young workers. This was discussed later with a representative of the Armenian office of the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung. Trust of young people in unions is very low in Armenia, although better in Georgia. The union leaders discussed the work the FES is doing including on collective bargaining, wages and addressing corruption together with other organisations. A next meeting will take a look at the place and role of self-employed workers in our movement as this is a growing trend.

The Central Europe constituency  was opened by the President of the Armenian confederation Eduard Tumasian.  He welcomed EPSU and addressed the challenges Armenia’s unions are facing in the transition to a more parliamentary system with elections on 2 April 2017.  The unions have made progress through the inter-sectoral tripartite social dialogue and the social-economic council. Due to the continuing conflict over Nagorno Karabach the economic situation of the country remains precarious. The unions explained the challenges they are facing in their countries with the struggle of the Lithuanian colleagues to the changes in their labour code a prime battle.

The EPSU General Secretary addressed the priorities for EPSU. He focused on organising and recruitment as part of his introduction on the priorities for the work of EPSU in 2017. Despite the setback over CETA the fight is not over. We have made the demands for a progressive and fair trade agenda more prominent. Our work on demanding public investment, for an end to austerity and the importance of pay to get us out of the economic crisis is gaining more support. European unions started the Pay raise campaign. EPSU has been a prime actor in moving the debate on addressing tax avoidance with several proposals for legislation in the European Parliament. We raised whistleblowing protection which colleagues considered important as corruption was teeming in some of the countries. An interesting observation was made and supported by several colleagues: the US government is very recognizable to them as an oligarchy. Oligarchs like Trump use the institutions of the state to serve their interests. Based on the unions experiences it does not abode well for workers and their unions.

Lesia Semeniaka, Ukrainian atomic energy union, referred to the work of the PSI Women’s Committee, the importance of gender mainstreamining, gender parity and the reading of the Programme of Action. This was further introduced by the EPSU GS. The PSI Programme of Action People before profits – Our time to lead 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 considered and the unions reflected if they should contribute to the debates with a resolution.  The time table for amendments was considered. Nominations for the PSI Board 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 Yerevan, Armenia, 20-21 February 2017. Unions from Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania and Ukraine took part. The meeting was chaired by Oleksii Romaniuk, chair of the constituency and president of the Ukrainian trade union for workers in Housing and Municipal Economy, Local Industry and Population Services.

For reports of the meetings (members only area)

Background on the Armenian trade unions

Publications on Youth attitudes in Armenia and in Georgia

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