The conference was organised in two parts: public one, with open discussions on trade union rights issues with state officials, and internal trade union one that concentrated on trade union strategies. The new ITUC report was released on the occasion of the conference that summed up the developments in trade union rights sphere in the region.
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow, ETUC and PERC General Secretary John Monks, FNV President and ITUC HTUR Committee Chair Agnes Jongerius, PERC and FNPR president Mikhail Shmakov, KTR President Igor Kovalchuk, representatives of the IUF, UNI, IMF, ICEM, ITF as well as of the ILO participated in the debates, while Russian state officials were addressing some of the issues raised by the unionists of the two national trade union centres, particularly, from the enterprise level activists.
In almost all countries of the region, the last years are marked with steps taken towards the ‘simplification’ of labour laws, leading to a decrease in social and labour protection for workers and an increase in attacks on trade union rights. In some cases, it has been linked with the efforts of the business community to increase “flexibility” in labour relations, in others, with the efforts of the governments to place freedoms – of association, of expression, of action – under its control. In many cases, it has been both.
Some of the TUR issues highlighted by the conference included:
The registration of trade unions and obstacles to its functioning created by the registration (and other) procedures. Permissive character of registration, denials in registration, “corrections to the union documents” by Ministry of Justice, prescription of the structures to grant unions eligibility for collective bargaining etc.
Lack of protection against any type of discrimination, including for trade union activities, with trade unionists being threatened, harassed, dismissed, transferred etc., with sanctions for discrimination being not dissuasive enough for employers not to exploit disciplinatory actions as anti-union tactics.
Insufficient normative environment that would encourage promoting of collective bargaining on enterprise and often on sectoral level, and particular limitations of the spheres and issues that are to be collectively bargained by workers and employers, e.g. often exclusion of wage negotiation from bargaining agenda.
Practical impossibility to implement the right to strike, due to cumbersome procedures and qualitative and quantitive requirements, long pre-avis periods, excessive prohibition of strikes in certain sectors, and liabilities put on workers and their organizations for the implementation of this right.
Direct intervention of local authorities and law enforcement agencies in trade union affairs, in election processes, in their work with members and potential members, in organization of collective actions, often by direct initiative of employers.
Threats and violence against trade union leaders and members of their families to dissuade them from union activities and creation of yellow, pocket unions as well as bribery, to exercise control over workers and their representatives.
During the second day of the conference trade unionists were debating strategies and actions necessary to meet this challenges and developed concluding document outlining the necessary steps to be undertaken by the union movement.