(17 September 2021) Unions are supporting and promoting vaccination policies across the constituency of Russia and Central Asia. In some countries like in Kazakhstan the number of workers vaccinated in health services is over 95 %. And whereas a majority of people is vaccinated across the region, there are large groups that refuse. This causes problems in the health and care systems and adds to the continued pressure on staff. The very large majority of people ending up in hospital are non-vaccinated patients. The unions are not supporting mandatory vaccination, resist pressures from employers to do this although there is limited understanding for the arguments to oppose the vaccine jabs.
Unions from Tajikistan reported on the impact on the economic and social situation with 25% of the population living in poverty. Spending on health as % of GDP remains low and poor salaries are not addressed. Whereas in Kazakhstan the government does not move quickly in response to demands of the unions to make COVID19 an occupational disease the Tajik government has introduced legislation to do this. Russian health workers remain confronted with a shortage of staff even though the government is now spending more and hospitals are being modernised and better equipped. Kazakh union has obtained that bonuses become structural and part of the salary although the amount is below the workers and their union’s expectations. With the pandemic, unions comment that the use of digital technologies increases.
Following this year’s forest fires in Russia and other parts of Europe climate change an important subject for unions in utilities. As in other countries like Greece and Turkey, the government has invested not enough in forest management, and there is pressure arising from the privatisation of forests as well. The heatwave in Russia this summer caused power stations to work at full capacity with work pressures being high resulting in labour unrest. The increase in gas prices is an area of concern as bills for people and some companies rise.
The meeting was opened by Anatoliy Domnikov, the President of the Russian Health workers union and leader of the constituency. EPSU’s General Secretary presented the priorities of EPSU. He introduced the Draft PSI Programma of action. The group of unions was informed about the work of the Women’s and Gender Equality Committee and the Youth network. The meeting took place 16 September 2021 online.