International Conference “The women’s rights in the workplace” (18-19 March 2010, Sofia)

On 18-19 March 2010 in Sofia, Bulgaria, representatives of 18 women’s organizations and institutions from Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia took part in the International Conference on the topic “The women’s rights in the workplace”. The meeting was organized by the Women’s Committee of Pan-European Regional Council (ITUC-PERC) and with the financial support of the Belgian Liberal Union (CGSLB).

The effects of the economic crises on the labour market and women workers` situation, their voice at work and in trade unions, as well as the key role of the women in the social dialogue and collective bargaining, were some of the main issues discussed during the Conference. The main presentations on the topics mentioned above were made by Ms Yanka Takeva (Interim President of PERC Women Committee); Mr Nikolay Nedev (CITUB` Executive Secretary of Social dialogue and Collective bargaining Department) and Ms. Maria Sotirova (professor in the University of Plovdiv). During the discussion sessions, presentations were made by almost all participants who present the situation in their countries and unions and shared their experience and some good practices.

On the second day of the Conference, there was a special panel devoted to the young women workers, which was organized jointly with the PERC Youth Committee. The panel was divided in two parts. The fist part was focused on the main trends, problems and challenges faced by the young women workers concerning their place and voice at work and in trade unions. And the second part was focused on sharing an experience and good practices between participants concerning the concrete achievements for young people and women through collective agreements at sector/ branch and enterprise level. Although a very short time for presentations and discussions, this panel marked huge success and one of the main conclusions of the panel, highline by all speakers and participants, was that addressing young women workers concerns and expectations effectively and ensuring their full involvement in trade unions should be essential tasks for trade unions leaders.

As a whole, the Conference had a real success, ending with a series of conclusions and recommendations that aim to push gender equality up the national, regional and international agenda. Some of the main priorities in the future work of the PERC Women` and Youth` Committees, as well as for all represented organizations, which were identified by the participants, are as following:

• Each organization to intensify its work within its trade union confederation/ organization and to participate in joint national and international projects, aimed at protecting women`s rights in the workplace.
• To make a continuous efforts for making and maintaining social dialogue as a real mechanism for coordinating the interests of social partners, with the active participation of women and youth organizations and networks.
• Building a common policy at the national level to influence for ensuring the equality and protection of the women`s rights, as well as development of anti-discrimination policies, conducted on the basis of sub-regional workshops with coordinators of the Women’s Network.
• Women`s Committes and Networks should provide assistance and support to the Trade Union Confederation in their fight for strengthening the presence of trade unions in the micro, small and medium enterprises, where the percent of the informally and totally unprotected employed women workers, is extremely high.
• Making constant efforts to raise the prestige of women`s organizations, for equality of participation in the negotiating teams – by promoting and defending the good practices among the organizations; as well as working with mass medias in this direction.
• Strengthening the cooperation between Women` and Youth` Structures/ Networks in the trade union confederations and organizing joint projects and actions, with the main aim to include more young people to issues of gender equality.
• PERC Women` and Youth` Committees to organized trainings for women, and especially for young women – trade union leaders, about conducting social dialogue and collective bargaining, in aim to improve and defend the women’s rights and gender balance.

Daniela Aleksieva (CITUB – Bulgaria, Chair of ITUC-PERC Youth Committee)