Communication for labour rights training for NIS, the second session

Communication for labour rights training for the responsible officers of the ITUC-PERC NIS affiliates and associates took place in Brussels, 7-9 November 2011. The meeting involved representatives from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Moldova, Russia and Ukraine. The activity was financially supported by the ILO-ACTRAV.

The training involved three different dimensions: the introduction to different aspects of the work and priorities of the international and European trade union movement, practical skills-building exercises moderated by ITUC staff and a freelance journalist and a study visit to Belgian trade union confederations FGTB and CSC.

Economic and social policies: the participants have got information about ITUC work with the International Financial Institutions, World Trade Organisation, its involvement in G20 and G8 processes, positions on corporate social responsibility, environment, climate change and green jobs.

Relations with international organisations: the participants discussed different actors on the international scenes which the trade union movement could align itself with, on case-by-case, basis. Particularly, strong cooperation was achieved with Amnesty International and Federation for human rights on human and trade union rights, with Oxfam on development issues, with Greenpeace on green jobs agenda, with Anti-Slavery international on forced labour and trafficking. However, it was mentioned that in national context the cooperation challenges are much more acute than on international scene.

Trade union rights: the focus was on the countries of risk, where rights’ abuses are most widespread, on trade union actions to support the unionists in those countries, by the means of campaigning, networking and direct actions with the national and international institutions. Particular examples of Belarus and Georgia were mentioned as the most risky countries of the NIS (and Europe) region.

Forced labour and trafficking: the thematic campaign the ITUC has been implementing for several years that in particular focuses on eradication of labour exploitation of migrants and trafficking of human beings as its extreme criminal level. Serbaz case of Azerbaijan Herkules case in Georgia, and forced child labour in Uzbekistan were presented as the most prominent for NIS countries, however, the discussion also touched upon potential challenges of big construction sites in Russia (Vladivostok and Sochi).

Domestic workers: this year the international trade union movement celebrated the conclusion of several years process aimed at recognising the activities of domestic workers as Work, with the respective workers’ rights granted to these category of workers by the ILO Convention. The ITUC will shortly launch a campaign to get ratifications of this convention.

Crisis in Europe and attacks on labour rights: the reasons behind the crisis, particularly, the debt crisis were presented, as well as the measures the European powers have been enforcing to fight it, which the ETUC considers wrong and counterproductive. These measures not only curb the growth perspective they also dismantle the institutional frames for social dialog and collective bargaining in several countries.

European Social Dialog: European employers and ETUC are part of the fundamental principles the EU is built and bargain collectively (and autonomously from the EU Commission) on a broad set of issues, which would become obligatory for the national states to implement when the specific agreements have been achieved.

Study visits to the FGTB and the CSC focused on the communication work of the two largest national centres of Belgium. Both unions have quite a developed communication frameworks, with traditional means of communication balanced with social media, live events, image building policies.

During sessions with communication specialists the participants were given certain tricks and skills on how the union information is seen, what is perceived positively by media, how to best outreach the audience and the media attention.

Conclusions and ideas for future:

- It was agreed that communication policies need to be holistic and mainstreamed through policies of national centres and also of the PERC, hence being in the new cycle of PERC activities.
- continuation of the networking of campaign officers is needed, with joint work and actions combined with regular face-to-face meetings;
- a common web info platform could be developed where the network members would be able to place their information for further use by their colleagues in other countries;
- the mailing list will be continued with new members being proposed by the existing members;
- one of the PERC activities in the region could be "piloted" for a specific coverage and promotion by the network;
- national activities could be enriched by participation of the network members from neighboring cities.