(17 September 2020) The measures to contain the pandemic are leaving deep traces in the countries of North East Europe even though there are large differences. Workers are dismissed, in some countries social protection safety nets are weak throwing workers into poverty and economic activity has slowed down considerably. Health and care workers have been infected with the highest number in the Ukraine. It sadly has the highest number of workers that have died from COVID19. The unions reported the struggles of workers to have sufficient personal protective equipment, to negotiate with the governments pay increases for the health workers and to ensure more funding for public services. And this comes on top of ongoing disputes about labour reforms, privatization proposals and loss of membership. The EPSU general secretary introduced the work of EPSU and affiliates in these last months. The crisis is an opportunity to demand a reset and a change of course towards quality public services, tax justice and a Green and Social deal.
Despite the role trade unions have played to negotiate around health and safety and increased pay, membership continues to fall in many countries. The declining membership was considered with EPSU’s staff Agnieszka Ghinararu responsible for the work on organizing and recruitment in EPSU. A package of support is now available including coaching of unionists, practical assistance with running campaigns and working out strategic plans. Without members, there are no resources to influence decisions and affect change, and unions lose the power of their voice in the work place and in society. It leads to weak collective agreements.
Recent collective bargaining developments were considered with Richard Pond of EPSU. He highlighted the work of the ETUC on collective bargaining and minimum wages and referred to the announcement of the European Commission President to come forward in October with a legal proposal on fair minimum wages. The Commission President also defended the importance of collective bargaining.
The meeting took place online, 16 September 2020. It was chaired by Yurii Pizhuk, Ukrainian State Workers Trade Union and president of the constituency meeting. The constituency comprises Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Ukraine.
Meeting documents (for members only)