“Harmonization of National Labor Legislation in Macedonia with the European standards and Pension System Reforms” workshop, 28-29 April

The workshop was held in cooperation with the FES Office Macedonia, which covered the organizational issues of the workshop and all local costs, and with ETUI, which provided Ms. Wiebke Warneck, legal expert who delivered a presentation on the EU labor law standards and directives dealing with issues of interest to the trade unions in Macedonia.

Active participation by all three trade union associations in Macedonia, the presence of the presidents of UNASM and KSS, and of many young trade unionists in particular added significantly to the value of the workshop.

The participants were interested primarily in the current amendments to the Labor Law; employment agreements, working hours, protection of workers against dismissals, collective bargaining and the manner of defining trade unions’ representation. During this session, presentations were made by legal experts from the three trade union associations from Macedonia who had participated in the Regional Workshop entitled “Improving and protecting workers’ rights in national legislations of SEE countries in line with international and European standards”, which took place in Kotor, Montenegro, in December 2008. They presented the current status of the labor legislation in Macedonia, the 2005 Labor Law, the manner in which the amendments to the law were drafted and passed in 2008, and pointed out dissatisfaction felt over the provisions passed at that time. They emphasized insecure jobs and a weak social dialogue, which the government abused for its own purposes, which in turn is detrimental to the overall status of all workers in Macedonia. They pointed out the problem of the absence of cooperation between the three trade union associations in that process and criticized each other for accepting some rather unfavorable changes too readily, without due deliberation.

On the second day of the workshop, the focus was on the pension insurance system reforms implemented in Macedonia that nobody is pleased with. A contribution to that issue was given by a retired expert of ETUI, Mr. Martin Hutsebaut, who delivered a presentation entitled “Pension System Reforms and Trade Union“. The data was provided on the number of employed people /607,125/ and the unemployed /310,441/, and retired people /277,428/; they also stressed the problem of the very much present informal economy, the practice of non-payment of social contributions by employers, being main problem affecting the sustainability and function of the pension and disability insurance system.

FES provided copies of all presentations to the participants.

Workshop conclusions:
1. It is necessary to develop cooperation between the three trade union associations on all important issues regarding the amendments to the labor and social legislation in order for them to have one voice and work together on protecting workers’ and social rights in Macedonia in the process of their harmonization with the European standards;
2. To continue to participate in the Regional Network of Legal Experts in order to get prepared for procedures and content of harmonization of the national labor legislation in the EU integration processes;
3. To develop a common national network of lawyers from all three trade union associations whose mentors would be legal experts from the Regional Network. In particular, as many young people as possible who are not burdened with the previous competing practices among UNASM, SSM and KSS, should be engaged;
4. To work together on developing a social dialogue at the national level, and have one voice in ESC and participate together in the social welfare funds and have common policies in struggling for the protection of labor and social rights of the workers and citizens of Macedonia;
5. To continue to organize seminars, workshops and other forms of training with an equal participation of representatives and experts from all three trade union associations.

Reported by:

Ms. Enisa Salimovic, ITUC-PERC SEE Office Sarajevo