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Unions gather for a regional meeting in Armenia

5 October, 2017A sub-regional meeting of IndustriALL Global Union affiliates in Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) countries was held in Yerevan, Armenia, on 2-3 October.

Trade union leaders from eight countries – Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine – discussed trade union development in the context of the ongoing regional economic crisis, increasing pressure on unions by employers, as well as challenges caused by digitization and robotization, also known as Industry 4.0.

During the opening ceremony, Gamlet Danielyan, president of the Republican Branch Union of Trade Union Organizations of Industrial Workers of the Republic of Armenia, and Eduard Pakhlevanyan, president of the Branch Union of Trade Union Organizations of Miners, Metallurgists & Jewellers of Republic of Armenia, welcomed the guests.

Leaders of IndustriALL affiliates reported on the trade union situation in their countries.

Zinaida Mikhniuk, deputy chair of Belarusian Radio and Electronic Industry Workers' Union, spoke about repression against independent unions in Belarus caused by union action against the so-called decree on “social parasitism”. IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan expressed the hope that the government of Belarus would follow the international standards, stop the persecution of trade unions and return to the civilized social dialogue. He also announced the recent release from prison of the union leader Ihar Komlik. 

Svetlana Klochok, chair of the Belarusian Trade Union of Chemical, Mining and Oil Industries Workers, announced their union demands to increase current monthly unemployment benefits of US $14 and insure workers against bankruptcy or reorganization of enterprises. There are about 4,000 companies on the verge of closure in Belarus. Only one of four workers can count on partial compensation.

Representatives of trade unions of Moldova referred to difficulties with concluding new collective agreements and saving social achievements in them.

Valery Matov, chair of the Nuclear Power and Industry Workers Union of Ukraine, told the participants about the union’s victory and restitution of pension benefits from 1 January 2018 to the workers occupied in dangerous and harmful conditions. Matov also thanked IndustriALL for support in resuming the operation of the state company Eastern Mining and Ore-Dressing Combine. 3,000 mineworkers returned to work after three months downtime.

Alexey Bezymyannykh, chair of Miners' & Metallurgical Workers' Union of Russia, told delegates about a MMWU pilot project training a group of 25 organizers. The union is moving away from the traditional approach of group learning in large cities to training people on the ground.

Ivan Mokhnachuk, chair of the Russian Independent Coal Employees' Union, emphasized the importance of strengthening and reforming union structures.

Tamaz Dolaberidze, chair of the Trade Union of Metallurgy, Mining and Chemical Industry Workers of Georgia, underlined the importance of an effective labour inspectorate in Georgia. Since its abolishment in 2006, more than 90 people are killed and 170 become disabled at work every year. Union activists and members are subject to pressure from government and employers. As a result, 700 members left the union in 2017 alone.

On 3 October, Gocha Aleksandria, ILO Decent Work Technical Support Team and Country Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia specialist, made a presentation about liberalization of labour legislation and regular violations of trade union rights in Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan.

Kemal Özkan highlighted the issue of impacts on labour and trade unions by Industry 4.0.

Summing up the meeting results, Kemal Özkan noted fruitful work in all countries. He announced that IndustriALL would continue working on the creation of youth and women's trade union networks in the CIS region, which started in 2017.

Özkan said,

“Labour legislation is changing in many countries. Governments are competing with each other for investments though decreasing workers’ rights. We believe that recognizing and reinforcing fundamental rights and working conditions would help to achieve strong economic growth. This is why we need to be able to work together more than ever across national borders”.

“We will continue to be shoulder in shoulder in solidarity with you. We give our heart to you. Solidarity support is the most important in global union. Struggle continues!”