GCTU COUNCIL CONCERNED OVER CRISIS
15 April 2009

The GCTU Council met in Moscow 10 April 2009 to review the activity of the Confederation in the period since its last session in April 2008.

Presenting the activity report to participants, GCTU General Secretary Vladimir Scherbakov said: The unions were among the first civil organisations to draw the attention of the authorities and the business community to the negative consequences of the financial and economic crisis for working people. The developments that followed proved that the unions had not painted it too black when giving their warnings.

Over the reporting period, much attention was paid to analyzing the experience accumulated in the field of social dialogue, and the findings show that the traditional forms and methods of dialogue have been put on serious trial. The GCTU maintained constructive cooperation with interstate bodies of the CIS, the Eurasec, and the Union of Belarus and Russia. Special emphasis was placed on the situation of migrant workers in Commonwealth countries. Today the problem has aggravated, and the GCTU will insist on human rights being respected, and take measures to help prevent conflicts. The Confederation has made remarkable progress in such a priority field as work with young people. Over the period, two international meetings of young trade union leaders have been held, and the decision was taken to set up a GCTU Youth Council.

The session discussed in detail the impact of the world financial and economic crisis on the situation in CIS countries. A comprehensive background report on the topic had been prepared by GCTU experts and circulated among participants. The GCTU and its affiliates, first of all, the national trade union centres, have taken concrete measures to mitigate the consequences of the crisis for their members and for all workers. They have issued statements and appeals to their governments, discussed the problem at the sessions of their elected governing bodies, participated in the work of anti-crisis commissions and groups, organised national and regional actions to protect workers socio-economic rights and guarantees.

The debates were wound up with adopting a Declaration on the Economic and Social Situation in the CIS States and Actions by Trade Unions in the Context of the World Financial Crisis that gives trade union evaluation of the situation. The document suggests the main principles of a coordinated policy to be carried out by GCTU affiliates to prevent and eradicate the adverse consequences of the crisis for workers. They cover a number of spheres, such as the economy, the labour market, wages and incomes, labour rights, social dialogue, and trade union rights. The text of the Declaration will be submitted to the leaders of CIS states.

World trade unions have made it clear, reads the Declaration, that workers are not responsible for the crisis and, therefore, must not suffer from its consequences. The unions believe that the reason for the crisis is to be sought in the world system of economic governance that has evolved over the last few decades, imposed on the human race by the international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organisation, etc.

The Council also considered the criteria for determining the minimum wages, and the attitudes of trade unions to the problem. Today, trade unions in CIS countries insist that the minimum wage amount should be at least equal to the subsistence minimum, which provides the main criteria for state guarantees in the field of work remuneration. The GCTU believes that the present methods of calculating the subsistence minimum in the Commonwealth states need to be improved, as the consumer goods baskets underlying the subsistence minimum lack a whole number of essential expenditures incurred by the worker. In particular, they do not make allowance for the cost of accommodation and the expanding paid services in medicine and education.

The GCTU Council recommended that the member organisation press for updating the contents and cost calculation of the consumer goods basket to make it satisfy the real needs of workers in foodstuffs, nonfood items and services, and provide compensation for compulsory payments and charges. The unions will insist that special laws on the subsistence minimum together with the guidance for its calculation be adopted in those CIS states where they are still being developed.

The session decided to establish a GCTU Youth Council and approved of its Regulations. The tasks and aims of the Council will include involving broad sections of young workers from CIS countries in GCTU activities, developing proposals concerning youth policies of the CIS trade union movement, and rendering assistance to the Confederations affiliates in implementing their youth projects and programmes.

As it will be 25 years since the Chernobyl disaster on the 26th of April, 2009, the GCTU Council adopted an appeal to the heads of government of the CIS states expressing its deep concern over the low pension rates and the tendency towards cutting down social benefits and indemnities for the liquidators and their families, and also for all population of the contaminated areas. The Council was also worried about the lack of conditions for normal rehabilitation and recreation of children from the affected zones. The GCTU called on the authorities to pay more attention to tackling the ecological, health service and socio-economic consequences of Chernobyl, and do their utmost to solve the problems of social protection of the liquidators and all population in the above territories.