17 October 2008

The Executive Committee of the General Confederation of Trade Unions, GCTU, held its regular session 16 October 2008 in the Palace of Labour, Moscow, to discuss the trends and problems in the CIS trade union movement.

Upon exchange of opinions, the Executive members described the general situation in the Commonwealth trade union community as being steadfast and stable. As an integral part of the civil society, the unions are waging hard struggles to protect workers socio-economic rights and interests, rebuffing attempts to infringe on trade union rights and freedoms, and organising mass protest actions whenever necessary.

However, their tremendous potential is far from being fully realised, and their activities are not always efficient enough. The main negative tendency is a steady, albeit slow, decline in membership, which calls for more effective motivation of trade union membership, particularly in TNC enterprises, small and medium businesses, and new industries.

The CIS trade union movement will continue its search for novel solutions to current pressing problems in the attempt to further improve its image, strengthen the influence of unions in society, and make them more attractive to workers.

The session reviewed the work done by trade unions to raise the minimum wage to the level of the subsistence minimum. Information on the subject was presented by union leaders and representatives from Armenia, Russia, Tajikistan, Ukraine and the Chemical Workers TUI. The Executive decided to proceed with the international solidarity campaign Minimum Wages not Lower than the Subsistence Minimum!. The unions intend to maintain this demand in the course of negotiating their General Agreements for 2009. Special attention will be paid to the need of timely revision of the minimum wage amount, considering that most CIS countries showed high inflation rates in 2008.

The Executive reviewed the results of the International Meeting of Young Union Leaders from the CIS Countries held prior to the session, and agreed with its proposal to set up a GCTU Youth Council. The GCTU member organisations were called upon to get actively involved in different youth events to be organised in 2009 which was proclaimed the Year of Young People by the heads of state of the Commonwealth of Independent States. The Committee recommended that, in doing so, they focus on the solution of acute youth problems, such as securing socio-economic guarantees, provision of appropriate work conditions and adequate pay, introduction of new forms of training young specialists, and their better adaptation to their work collectives.

Solving the problems of working youth is becoming a key line of activity for the Confederation and its affiliates. The young union leaders who were invited to attend the GCTU Executive session said they were willing to make a tangible contribution to these efforts whose success is crucial for the future of the trade union movement.

Having discussed the information on the results of the 97th session (2008) and preparations for the 98th session of the International Labour Conference (2009), the Executive Committee welcomed the outcome of the 97th session that had approved the policy-making Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalisation.

The Executive noted that the GCTU and its member organisations were fully aware of the importance of being involved more actively in ILO activities/ They stand up for a stronger ILO as the only international body dealing with issues of labour problems and social policy on a tripartite basis. Further mainstreaming of their involvement in the ILO and strengthening the position of CIS workers within its frameworks remain a major objective of the international policies of the GCTU and its affiliates.

The session approved a Plan of Activities to prepare for the celebration of the 65th Anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945, and recommended that the GCTU affiliates should use the occasion to intervene more energetically with the authorities to make them improve the social conditions of war veterans and raise their pension benefits.

The Executive supported the decision by the UN General Assembly to proclaim 20 February as the World Day of Social Justice. The GCTU welcomes this initiative as a contribution to the efforts aiming to strengthen the social dimension of global policies, solve the problems of sustainable development, and eradicate poverty, lawlessness and economic backwardness. The GCTU called upon its members to mark this day under the common slogan Social Justice and Decent Life for All!.

The session also summed up the results of actions undertaken in CIS countries to mark the World Day for Decent Work. The Executive expressed its satisfaction over the fact that workers in the region, along with millions of their counterparts across the world, took an active part in this unprecedented global solidarity action on 7 October 2008. The initiative of the International Trade Union Confederation to observe this Day was welcomed and supported by the GCTU. The latter called on its affiliates to organise actions on that day under the common slogan Decent Work Basis for Decent Life!.

Responding to the appeals by the ITUC and the GCTU, the national trade union centres in CIS countries and TUIs held various events taking the form of marches, rallies, meetings, conferences, round tables, etc. Participants demanded that the authorities respect the rights of workers and trade unions, pursue responsible social policies, secure full and productive employment, take effective steps to eliminate poverty, raise substantially wages and pensions, rebuff decisively the price outrage imposed by monopolies, ensure fair taxation, and eliminate the reasons for any forms of injustice, social exclusion and discrimination.

The GCTU appealed to its affiliates not to relax their efforts in the struggles they wage for the formulation and implementation in the CIS countries of a socio-economic policy aiming to raise workers living standards.