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GCTU Extraordinary Congress Convened
in Moscow 26 March 2004

The 5th (Extraordinary) Congress of the General Confederation of Trade Unions was held in Moscow 26 March 2004.

The GCTU currently affiliates 10 national trade union centres and 38 industrial Trade Union Internationals in CIS countries, with a total membership of about 75 million workers.

The decision to call the extraordinary congress was taken by the GCTU Executive Committee at its session last December. It was prompted by the drastic changes that had recently occurred both in the CIS region and in the rest of the world, which requires a quick and efficient response from the trade unions, adjustment of their tasks and goals, renewal of their work methods, and a certain modification in the structure of the Confederation’s governing bodies.

In accordance with the representation quotas and the Constitution, the GCTU Congress was composed of elected delegates that represented the trade unions of Commonwealth countries and all economic sectors.

The Congress agenda included the following items:.

- Reforming the General Confederation of Trade Unions (report by GCTU President Vladimir Scherbakov);

- Report of the GCTU Auditing Commission (Report by Chairman of the Commission Vladimir Kanyshev);

- Amendments and addenda to the GCTU Constitution;

- Amendments and addenda to the Regulations for the GCTU Auditing Commission; and

- Election of the GCTU governing bodies.

The report by the GCTU Executive Committee gave an analysis of trade union development in the Commonwealth of Independent States and of the progress made by the GCTU since the moment it was established in 1992.

The GCTU affiliates have acquired their own experience and influence in society, which was partly due to the energetic support they received from the GCTU. The national trade union centres have become firmly established as an independent and active social force. Democratic mechanisms have been created making it possible for union members to contribute tangibly to the development and implementation of the policies and strategies of the national trade union centres. The methods of trade union work in a market economy have been basically mastered. The GCTU-affiliated organisations have become involved in the activity of the world trade union movement.

The Congress came to the conclusion that the transition period in the history of both the GCTU and the Commonwealth trade union movement was practically over, and this fact was considered to decisive for planning out the future of the Confederation. The time has come for a more rapid advance, for more ambitious aims, for large-scale protest actions involving the entire Commonwealth, and for initiatives that would help further unification of the GCTU affiliates.

Recently, there have also been great political and economic changes in the world and, particularly, in the CIS region. The problems of international security and struggle against terrorism have become more acute. The world economic situation has aggravated as a result of the developments around Iraq and the Middle East. The currency markets are not stable. Occasionally, new seats of economic war emerge, affecting the vital interests of workers in various industries. The tendency towards group integration of the CIS countries is growing stronger, both in the economic and in the defence spheres.

A dozen speakers who took the floor in the debate, mostly the first leaders of GCTU member organisations, stressed that all those internal and external factors should be taken into account when adjusting the policy of the General Confederation of Trade Unions.

The Congress adopted a Declaration setting the priorities for the period to come. They include, among other things:

  • coordinated struggle for social justice, full and efficient employment, decent work, a high price of labour, dignified living conditions, effective social protection of all categories of wage workers, and gender equality;
  • protection of trade union rights in the CIS countries, providing legislative support for the objectives set in trade unions' programmes and constitutions, achieving more efficient cooperation between the unions and parliaments;
  • helping the affiliated organisations further develop their trade union movements, rendering them support and solidarity with their collective actions to safeguard trade union rights and freedoms and workers' economic and social interests;
  • trade union monitoring of the application of the ILO conventions ratified by CIS states, initiating ratification of other ILO conventions using the channels of the inter-parliamentary structures;
  • further development of a constructive dialogue with all international trade union organisations on pressing regional and global issues of economic and social development; etc.

    The Congress expressed its confidence that the GCTU and its affiliates, acting in solidarity and relying for support on the world trade union movement, would be able to protect effectively the vital interests of wage workers in the CIS countries.

    The Congress approved the report by the GCTU Auditing Commission.

  • The Congress also adopted amendments and addenda to the Constitution of the General Confederation of Trade Unions.

    Congress confirmed that the collective nature of making decisions and publicity in the process of their implementation were to be among the key principles of GCTU activity. Simultaneously, the fair balance of interests of the national trade union centres and the industrial Trade Union Internationals must remain the corner-stone of the GCTU family.

    The new version of the Constitution fixes the rights and obligations of the affiliated organisations, determines the format for membership and the requirements for admitting new members, and specifies the cases of cessation of GCTU membership.

    The Constitution states in clear terms that the GCTU carries out its activity in the region of the Commonwealth of Independent States.

    The structure of the GCTU governing bodies has been changed. A new body has been established, the Council of the GCTU, that will be the main authority in between two Congresses. The Council will be composed of representatives of all the industrial Trade Union Internationals (TUIs) and an equal number of representatives of the national trade union centres. This will give the chance for all the affiliates to be involved in the work of the Council.

    The GCTU Executive Committee will be a standing body supervising the everyday activity of the Confederation. The Executive is elected by the Council out of its own members. Every two-and-a-half years the Executive members representing the industrial Trade Union Internationals will be replaced by representatives of other TUIs on the principle of mid-term rotation.

    The GCTU President and Vice President will from now on be elected, on a regular rotation basis, out of the leaders of the affiliated organisations and perform their duties on a voluntary basis.

    Simultaneously, the new offices of GCTU General Secretary and Deputy General Secretaries have been constituted, and they will be in charge of GCTU routine activities.

    The role of the member organisations in forming the GCTU governing bodies has been enhanced.

    A more efficient and transparent procedure for collecting membership dues has been set based on the strength of the affiliates. The Council of the GCTU is expected to elaborate a concrete scale of dues payment. The Constitution has established the responsibility for the failure to pay the membership dues without any valid excuse.

    The Congress decided to transform the GCTU Auditing Commission into a Control and Auditing Commission, which, as the new name suggests, will broaden its powers in exercising control and supervision over the economic and financial activity of the GCTU.

    All the amendments to the GCTU Constitution and the Regulations for the GCTU Control and Auditing Commission adopted by the Congress are in keeping with the practices of the international trade union organisations, and, at the same time, make allowance for the experience and specific background of the region.

    The Congress has elected the GCTU leaders.

    The composition of the GCTU Council has been formed.

    The leader of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Russia, Mikhail Shmakov, has been elected President of the GCTU, and President of the CIS Federation of Timber and Related Industries Workers’ Unions, Viktor Karnyushin, Vice President of the GCTU.

    Vladimir Scherbakov has been elected General Secretary of the GCTU.

    The Congress adopted a statement about the infringement on trade union rights and interference by state authorities of the Republic of Moldova in the activity of trade unions affiliated with the Confederation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Moldova.

    Congress delegates, the statement reads, condemn this gross interference as a violation of the fundamental democratic rights proclaimed in Moldova’s Constitution and Law on Trade Unions, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the European Charter on Human Rights, and in Conventions 87 and 98 of the International Labour Organisation.

    The Congress appealed to the Government of Moldova urging it to stop immediately all interference in the internal affairs of trade unions, and expressed its solidarity with the Confederation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Moldova and with all union members who defend the independence of their organisations to secure effective protection of workers’ socio-economic rights and interests.

    The first meeting of the newly elected GCTU Council that took place later the same day elected a 24-member Executive Committee of the GCTU. Natalia Podshibyakina, Albert Potapov and Valery Youryev were elected Deputy General Secretaries of the GCTU.

    At the meeting held on the same day, the Control and Auditing Commission elected Vladimir Kanyshev as its Chairperson.