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Unions unite to defend workers’ rights

4 October, 2018Over 80 delegates representing 40 IndustriALL affiliates from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) met on 1 - 3 October in Baku, Azerbaijan, to discuss effective trade union response against the challenges in the regions.

The meeting was an important platform for exchanging of information and experiences, with participants united in defending and advancing workers’ rights. One whole day was devoted to discussing gender issues and how the unions can work together to improve women’s rights and participation.

Discussing developments since the last meeting in Yerevan, Armenia in 2017, many delegates spoke about the difficulties they face, including falling living standards, low level of wages and attacks on trade union rights.

  • There were alarming reports on worsening trade union rights is in Kazakhstan and Belarus.
  • In Kazakhstan, worrying developments were reported on freedom of association and direct government intervention in internal union affairs.
  • In an attempt to criminalize trade union work, Gennady Fedynich and Ihar Komlik, leaders of the IndustriALL Global Union’s affiliate Belarusian radio and electronics industry workers’ union (REP) were convicted for alleged tax evasion in August. Fedynich was able partly attend the meeting via conference call since as he cannot travel outside the country.
  • Unions in Russia have been fighting against an announced increase of retirement age since last summer. Russia was the last country where women could retire at the age of 55 and men at 60. The new retirement age is set for 60 for women and 65 for men.
  • In Georgia, unions use mediators as a new way to solve labour disputes.
  • IndustriALL continues supporting campaigns of organizing in the region, including very successful organizing efforts in Kyrgyzstan.

Kemal Özkan, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:

“I believe this was a very good and productive three days of work. Like in many other countries, our affiliates here are facing serious challenges, but we are confident we can cope with them.

“The alarming trade union rights’ violations in Kazakhstan and Belarus are upsetting, but with the support of our affiliates we stand in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in these countries.”

As part of a strengthened relationship between the countries in the region and the European Union (EU), IndustriAll Europe general secretary Luc Triangle, reported on the EU, its institutions and social policies.

Industry 4.0 will soon impact the region, and unions are preparing themselves for challenges that will affect production and work in the industries dominating the economies in the region.

The meeting’s third day was dedicated to gender policy and future actions in the region to implement decisions taken during IndustriALL’s Congress in Rio in 2016, according to which, “all affiliates should strive towards a minimum of 40 per cent women representation in their delegations”. The unions welcomed the opportunity for men and women to come together to better understand the challenges faced by women in unions and in the workplace. Affiliates agreed that the best way to make improvements is through addressing the issues at a leadership level with the participation of women and men.

Jenny Holdcroft, IndustriALL assistant general secretary, said:

“I was very pleased to be part of a stimulating discussion that highlighted the different perspectives of men and women of the situation of women workers. It is through discussions like these that we can reach a better common understanding a drive change in our unions.”