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Unions from South-East Europe fight against precarious work

28 May, 2015At a workshop in Croatia on 22-23 May, trade union leaders from Croatia, Serbia and Slovenia voiced their determination to intensify the struggle against precarious work through increased organizing and unity building.

Precarious work, membership growth and unity building were key issues on the agenda of a two-day workshop held on 22-23 Mai 2015 in Croatia.  

IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliates in the region reported that temporary work has become a widespread practice, particularly in the textile, oil and auto parts sectors. And the trend is increasing.  

Employers are using loopholes in the legislation and thus generating inequalities among workers. Young people are increasingly hired on short-term contracts, without any chance to plan for the future. In addition, under pressure from international financial institutions, labour legislation in the region has been amended towards more flexible work contracts and dismissal procedures. The legislation was deemed too protective for labour and an obstacle to foreign investment.

However, in spite of the challenging political and economic environment, unions in Croatia and Serbia have been successful in negotiating limits to the use of precarious work in collective agreements and in some cases turning temporary work contracts into permanent ones.  

Slovenian unions have been part of a legislative process that has resulted in making temporary work more restrictive and more costly for employers. Participants at the workshop expressed their determination to further increase awareness of the adverse effects of precarious work on workers and society as a whole, and committed to joining the World Day for Decent Work on 7 October 2015.  

Lively discussions also took place on the issue of organizing and union-building against the background of a changing economic landscape. Restructuring and privatization in the region have taken a heavy toll on workers and unions.  The transformation of socially owned companies into private entities is still going on in some countries, and as a result more jobs are expected to be lost. Recruiting new members in the newly established companies is therefore a top priority for all unions.

Participants discussed strategies to better communicate with members and reach out to young people with little knowledge of union work. They also agreed that unions needed to cooperate more closely at all levels, strengthen their structures and join forces to advance workers’ rights to decent working and living conditions.

Kemal Özkan, assistant general secretary of IndustriALL says:

Even in adverse circumstances, our affiliates continue to fight challenges, such as precarious work. Together with our European sister organization, we will continue to give them our full support and solidarity.

To assist affiliates in their fight against the expansion of precarious work, IndustriALL Global Union’s publication “Negotiating Security – Trade Union bargaining strategies against precarious work” is available in Serbian.