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on the outcome of the International Conference
"Economic Globalisation and Regional Integration:
Their Impact on Workers' Conditions in the CIS Countries"

An International Conference "Economic Globalisation and Regional Integration: Their Impact on Workers' Conditions in the CIS Countries"  was held in Moscow's House of Trade Unions from 7-8 February 2002. The Conference was organised by the General Confederation of Trade Unions (GCTU), the International Association of Academies of Sciences of CIS Countries, and the national Academies of Sciences of Commonwealth countries.

The Conference gathered representatives of the legislative and executive bodies of CIS states, interstate integration agencies, National Academies of Sciences, chief executive officers of major corporations and enterprises, employers' and public organisations, prominent sciences, and mass media workers. There were many trade unionists among the participants, including leaders of the national trade union centres of CIS countries, international and national industrial trade unions, regional and workplace trade union organisations, including trade union committees of several transnational corporations, and international guests. All in all, almost a thousand people took part in the Conference, representing 18 countries and four international trade union organisations.

The keynote speeches were presented by GCTU President Vladimir P. Scherbakov and Vice-President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Academician Alexander D. Nekipelov. At its plenary sessions and six workshops, the Conference discussed topical issues relating to CIS countries' entry into the globalising world. The broad discussion dwelt on both the positive and the negative consequences of globalisation processes for workers, and on whether the regional integration of the CIS countries could help alleviate the adverse effects of globalisation.

Speakers pointed that globalisation, as an objective factor of world development, opens new prospects for the world economy as it stimulates contacts and links in the economy, trade, technologies, culture, information and other spheres, and lifts restrictions impeding labour and capital transfer across national boundaries. Simultaneously, globalisation aggravates international competition, often puts its participants in unequal conditions, and widens the gap not only between the rich and the poor countries, but also between different sections of the population.

What can make this process manageable and oriented towards the universal objectives of progress is the right choice of national policies by CIS states, Conference participants stressed. The business quarters, academic circles, and public organisations, including trade unions, should be actively involved in the formulation and accomplishment of such policies, side by side with state structures. This could ensure access to the positive results of globalisation for the broadest possible sections of the population, lessen the economic and social costs of the world community's transition to a new quality, and help preserve the integrity of cultures and national sovereignty.

While not denying that CIS countries may profit from joining the WTO, participants voiced their concern with the low competitiveness of many industries and enterprises, and with the lack of resources needed for a quick introduction of the strict WTO standards. Should their markets be opened, this may lead to sizeable cuts in jobs and rises in unemployment. Given the situation, more balanced approaches must be taken towards the problem of CIS countries' entry into the WTO, with due consideration both for economic and social expediency. In this connection, the necessity was stressed to build up competitive advantages and enhance the role of state regulation.

Particularly heated were the debates about the changes in the production pattern of the world economy where a symbiosis of transnational corporations and small enterprises is playing a dominating role. As they spoke of the growing influence of TNCs and finance-industrial groups on the process of globalisation, Conference participants pointed to their dual nature. On the one hand, they are the vehicles of technological progress, while on the other, they try to take advantage of (and, to a certain extent, conserve) the differences in the levels of labour remuneration and workers' social protection. To achieve the aim, they bring their own social ideology to the territories of other states.

There are numerous cases when transnational enterprises breach national social and labour legislation, and block the establishment and activity of trade union organisations or collective bargaining, which calls for additional serious investigation into the role of TNCs in the forming of new social and labour relations from the viewpoint of their impact on the emerging global labour market, and on the structure of trade unions and the forms and methods of their activity.

Many examples were cited to illustrate the negative effect of globalisation on the social conditions and living standards of the majority of the able-bodied population. Participants noted the effect of the scientific and technological revolution, including the wide application of information and communication technologies, on job reduction, increased migration flows, the curtailment of social protection schemes, environment degradation, and the growing inequality in the spheres of culture, health care and education. In this situation, women are hardest hit. This gives rise to widespread antiglobalist sentiments, and calls for a more active struggle for decent conditions of work and life.

Speakers emphasised the need for developing a social policy in the globalizing world, job creation, decent working conditions, and better legal, economic and organisational conditions for labour migration. Participants believed priority should be given to increasing real incomes of citizens and, particularly, their wages, retaining the principle of social solidarity in the process of reforming pension and social security schemes, and ensuring better health care for all, general education and vocational training oriented for market requirements, access to cultural achievements, and equal treatment of men and women.

Participants believed that the process of CIS countries joining the global world could be mitigated through their regional integration that makes it possible for them to expand efficiently their common economic space without relinquishing their national sovereignty. It would be necessary to co-ordinate, within the CIS, the approaches towards the solution of problems, take maximum advantage of the positive potential of globalisation, and reduce its negative social implications. All public forces and state authorities must jointly work towards the establishment of a common labour market, and the development and realisation of programmes in the fields of employment, stable economic growth and increased living standards of the population.

The Conference highlighted the role of trade unions as organisations representing and defending workers' interests, and stressed the need for their more vigorous struggle against the negative consequences of globalisation, and for the observance of international labour standards, including those set by UN and ILO documents. Solutions must be found to the problems of securing the rights and freedoms of trade unions and bringing their structure in keeping with the structure of the labour market. The need for solidarity and trade union unity was also emphasised.

Conference spoke in favour of continued co-operation in investigating and discussing these problems in order to promote the development and implementation of a social model that would add a social dimension and human character to globalisation in the interests of working people.