Solidarity with workers in Ukraine and Belarus

EPSU North Eastern Europe Constituency meeting April 2023 Warsaw

(5 April 2023) Not being able to travel due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, Yuri Pizhuk the chair of Ukrainian State workers and of the constituency spoke via a video chat with unions leaders of North East Europe in EPSU. He described the terrible situation of workers and people in the Ukraine following the more than a year long aggression of Russia against Ukraine. Other Ukrainian affiliates added with examples how workers try to cope, and on the work, members are doing despite the daily sirens, attacks and bombing. We were moved by the stories of people and children being injured or worse as rescue and health workers seek to save lives. Other public service workers keep municipal services, utilities, public administrations and care going. The unions reported on how the Russian unions of FNPR are taking over union facilities and members in the occupied territories claiming these are now Russian. The unions expressed their strong solidarity with the struggle of workers and people. The Ukrainian unions thanked all affiliates for their solidarity and humanitarian assistance. It remains important as needs are growing.

Our trade union colleague of the Belarusian union SPB-Panacea of BKDP could not join. We expressed our solidarity with their struggle and demand that the jailed leaders of the independent trade union are released. Trade union work is not a crime. Other solidarity messages were for the French workers on strike and in action against the proposals to reform the pension system and for Georgian and other workers in action in a Polish company active in Germany. The unions joined a protest of DGB, ITF and the Georgian confederation GTUC demanding the employer of the Polish company to pay the back wages.

Organising and building workers’ power

The main item of discussion was on organising and recruitment. The EPSU team set out the work and priorities and we learned from the organising examples of affiliates in Estonia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania. With declining membership in many countries our challenge is to grow the unions, to build workers power and have a voice in our workplaces, sectors and at national, European, and global level, there were decisions are made that impact on workers. The number of unions focusing on how to increase membership and influence the employers is growing.


There are several important Congresses coming up. The first is the ETUC Congress 23-26 May in Berlin. EPSU’s delegation is balanced over sectors, regions, is based on gender parity and fulfils the youth representation. The amendments to the ETU Constitution and the Programme of Action will be discussed in the EPSU executive 18-19 April. Unions expect the ETUC to stand up for public services and fight austerity policies. Congress will adopt a Charter of Values and a Berlin Manifesto. The ITUC, the global confederation, will organise a special Congress in September to elect a new General Secretary as the unions lost confidence in the current one following his implication in the Qatar-gate scandal. The PSI Congress takes place 12-18 October. It will address constitutional changes prepared for several years. It will adopt its programme of action and elect a new President and General Secretary as Dave Prentis and Rosa Pavanelli retire.  The unions agreed that the candidates for the PSI Board would be Anahit Asatryan, President of the Armenia state workers union and Vasily Shilov, vice-President of the Ukrainian Social Workers union. Irena Petraitiene and Lesia Semeniaka will continue in the Women’s Committee of the PSI.

As in the other constituencies we discussed the preparation for the EPSU Congress (16-20 June 2024) and the comments on the programme of action and constitution. Unions discussed the impact of climate change, the measures to address this and reduce CO2 emissions and how this effects working people and communities. There is concern that some measures go too fast and make it difficult for countries to adapt. Constitutional amendments around affiliation fee indexation and membership are controversial while the group wants clarity on how to expel unions from the Federation that do not adhere to its values.

Cost of Living crisis

The EPSU General Secretary gave an overview of the ongoing work and the foreseen discussion on trade unions rights in the EPSU Executive. All unions present reported on the struggle to raise wages for workers with some notable successes although full compensation for the cost of living increases has not been achieve everywhere. It is part of the broader struggle in Europe for higher pay and better conditions. Many unions reported on workforce shortages most notably in health and care. With all focus on the war in Ukraine, the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan receives less attention. Nonetheless people die in that conflict. The European Commission has played a role to broker a peace deal. Armenian comrades gave an update. They further highlighted the difficult situation for trade unions with changes in labour law, lack of genuine social dialogue and problems with union representation following the merger of municipalities. Polish unions concentrate on problems of changing the structures to be more efficient and effective, and others are preparing protest actions. Alina Tankeliun presented the work of the youth network with a Conference foreseen for September in Sofia, and a full youth Conference in the weekend just before the EPSU Congress next year. Jurga Subaciute gave an overview of the EPSU Women and Gender Equality work and presented the results of a survey among the unions. Irena Petraitiene stressed the work of the PSI Women’s Committee and the strong presence of PSI in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. The EPSU Women’s Conference will take place 24 November in Roma and the delegates will join the demonstration to Stop violence against women on the 25th. Governments are called upon to speed up the ratification and implementation of ILO Convention 190.

The meeting took place 3 and 4 April 2023 in Warsaw. It was chaired by Irena Petraitiene, President of the Lithuanian state workers union and Valeriy Matov, President of the Ukrainian Nuclear Power workers trade union. The North East European constituency includes Armenia, Belarus, Estonia, Georgia, Latvia, Lithuania, Ukraine. The next meeting is scheduled for Riga, Latvia.

  • Solidarity message with Georgian workers on strike in Polish company Agmaz Lukmaz Impregia in Germany
Armenia Belarus Estonia Georgia Latvia Lithuania Ukraine