North East European constituency focuses on austerity, organising and trade agreements

(30 March 2015) {Changing Europe's economic policy is the priority} confirmed the leaders of the North East European constituency. The union leaders demonstrated with examples the effects of the neo-liberal and corporate driven austerity policies. Cuts in public spending, outsourcing and privatisation as well as pay freezes and job cuts are undermining the quality of the services and are intentionally commercialising public services. It is not the needs of the people but the desire to make money that becomes a prime driver of running the services. The [cuts in public spending for health care->] have been particularly severe in Latvia, leading the Council of Europe Human Rights Commissioner to the conclusion that [the access to health care->] has been undermined. The same philosophy is at work in [Ukraine->] and other countries. Minimun wages are frozen and public spending including for health care and education are slashed. Salaries of public service workers cut. And as the Ukrainian government is advised by Georgian collaborateurs of the ex-President Mikheil Saakashvili, known for his [anti-union and dismantling of labour protection->], Georgian colleagues indicated what could be expected from the current neo-liberal and corporate Ukrainian government when demanding structural reforms. And what is meant by structural reform was vividly underlined the day before the constituency meeting when a report for new Labour Code was published arguing for more labour market flexibilities in [Lithuania->]. The proposals to deal with so-called labour market rigidities include more flexible working time arrangements, less protection against dismissal and a reduced role of the trade unions in the work place. The authors argued that these reforms are needed not to lose competitiveness with Latvia and to respond to the [country specific recommendations->] of the European Commission. The unions discussed the proposals with the general secretary of the Lithuanian confederation LPSK and the vice-chair of the Lithuanian Parliament Seimas, [Algirdas Sysas->]. The trade unions are clear: they do not accept the proposals. They will be further discussed in the Tri-partite Council, but the government already wants the proposals discussed in the Parliament next month. Colleagues discussed with the General Secretary the position on the trade agreements and how these link also with the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements with the EU and Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova. These will also link these countries with CETA and TTIP (when finalised). Issues of concern for [EPSU->] are the impact on public services, workers' rights and democracy due to the effect of the Investor State Dispute Settlement mechanism and the regulatory cooperation. The union leaders were concerned and are seeking more discussion in their confederations. With Armenia and Belo-Russia member of the [EurAsian Economic Union->] the countries of the constituency are engaged in a complex network of economic relations and political projects especially after it has been suggested that the EAEU should get a [single currency and central bank by 2025->ttp://] An important discussion took place over organising and recruitment introduced by Richard Pond and with examples from the work of different unions. The main conclusion of the union leaders was that the union needs to be visible at the workplace addressing workers' concerns and making clear what the union does. Activating members is an another important part of getting an active and recruiting union. It will be an area for further discussion and activities. The meeting took place in Vilnus, Lithuania, 25-26 March 2015 with trade union representatives from Armenia, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine. Bielo-Russian colleagues were prevented due to upcoming Congress. - [For a report in Lithuanian->]