ITUC PERC winter school 2022: Peace, work and stability challenges in 2022

The PERC winter school took place virtually on 10 and 11 of February, chaired by the PERC President Irakli Petriashvili.

More than 100 trade union leaders and specialists from the region discussed the effect of pandemic on economies and societies, outlined key challenges for trade union movement in 2022 – employment, peace and stability and fundamental workers’ rights, including occupational health and safety, implementation. The school re-affirmed the PERC Executive call for fair vaccination policies .

Mohammed Mwamadzingo, senior economist of the ILO-ACTRAV, presented the ILO employment outlook, focusing on the prognosis for the region. The European region showed strong sings of recovery, though very unequal. The recovery is uneven across industries. Some industries have been hit hard because of supply chain disruptions and by labour shortages because of the health emergency. Inequality could widen in Europe’s large economies. Higher-earning workers may have lost fewer working hours and less income, may see their incomes recover faster than lower-wage earners, who have had less access to remote work, lost more income and saved less; and, at the same time, governments may come under pressure to cut spending in the coming years. At the same time, the effects of pandemic continue increasing gaps, of wages first of all, between workers in lead sectors and those in lagging sectors, those with secure employment and those in precarious conditions or in false self-employment.

Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary, outlined the new social contract demands of the ITUC that would be the main theme of the 5th World Congress in Melbourne in November 2022, the ITUC campaign to get OSH included in the international labour standards, actions to set up mandatory due diligence for MNEs, to build universal social protection, and just transition in energy and extracting industries. PERC General Secretary Luca Visentini briefed about major initiatives for advancing economic and social rights in Europe, and the ETUC work on specific regulations – minimal wage and collective bargaining, pay transparency, due diligence, platform workers and others.

Leaders of unions from South and Eastern Europe introduced social and economic developments in their countries, challenge of functional social dialogue and collective bargaining, organizing of workers in non-standard employment, persistent violations of human and trade union rights, need for increasing of wages, but also to facilitate just transition by engagement of unions in building climate and recovery plans. Enisa Salimovic, coordinator of the ITUC-PERC Sarajevo office, presented the successful campaigning by the unions to fight with the COVID-19 and to promote OSH, as well as actions to improve minimal wage. The region also faces increasing tensions, exploited by politicians. Participants of PERC winter school participants congratulated Albanian unions in successful result of their campaign to get ILO Convention 190 ratified.

Owen Tudor introduced the ITUC peace campaign, particularly in a view of growing tensions over Ukraine. All the unions reaffirmed strong call for de-escalation and diplomacy as the only means to prevent further militarization and to mitigate the risks war conflict, but also reiterated that social justice and respect of fundamental workers rights, is a precondition for peace in the countries and in the region. The social explosion in Kazakhstan that trembled stability of the country and brought violence and extremism is the most recent, but not the only, example of failed oligarchy societies based on repression of workers and citizens rights. In Ukraine, despite extreme fragility of economy and social fabric due to permanent peace threats and risks of military actions, the authorities continue brutal attack on workers, unions and their leaders in the interests of corrupted elites.

The School also exchanged views of affiliates on the draft of the ITUC Congress statement presented by Tim Noonan, discussed the PERC action plan and key activities in 2022, directed on building regional inputs to the Congress, in terms of structuring regional representation, but also in trade union actions on just transition, financing for recovery, HTUR, OSH, employment relations, gender equality, and others. PERC Women’s Committee outlined key demands for equality and justice in recovery: equal pay and reduction of gender gap in pensions, pay justice for essential workers, ending stereotypes, end of violence and harassment at work, fight for women’s rights and for more women in decision making, work-life balance and investments in the infrastructure for care, support of trade unions action for gender equality. Specific trade union rights challenges were discussed, including Belarus, Kazakhstan

Employment Outlook 2022. Global and Regional Perspectives. Mohammed Mwamadzingo, senior economist, ILO Bureau for workers activities
PERC Women Workers demands on Equality in the Recovery