NIS economic experts meeting

The PERC and the ILO-ACTRAV organised annual meeting of the trade union economic experts from the NIS countries. The meeting continues cooperation of trade union professional experts as a part of the PERC coordinated UnionToUnion project.

Leo Baunach and Lara Merling from the ITUC-GU Washington office presented the research analysis and policy recommendations of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. While the dialog with the IMF and WB provides good platform for an exchange of opinions and views on such issues as social protection, inequalities, gender equality, labour market institutions, including unions and collective bargaining, the policy prescriptions and advices that these institutions give to national governments continue being plagued by liberal thinking of deregulation, privatisation and social spending optimisation. Special attention was devoted to practical examples of IMF engagement in certain countries of the region during last decade, particularly, in Ukraine, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova. Participants highlighted that despite withdrawal of the labour market indicators from the WB Doing Business report, the governments and certain politicians continues using it for advocating deregulation and flexibilization. Particular role of American Chamber of Commerce and different “investors associations” in implanting neoliberal ideology into national policies, often in contradiction to economic analysis, was highlighted by the participants, who underlined disastrous outcomes of labour inspection disempowerment and state withdrawal from certain areas of labour relations regulations resulting in drastic rise of work-related accidents and casualties and growing social tensions.

Social and environment guidelines of the Multilateral Development Banks provide opportunity for unions to ensure due diligence within the respective projects and operations financed by MDB. The ITUC and Global unions signed memorandum of understanding with the International Finance Corporation and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on implementation of core labour standards, while other MDB – World Bank, European Investment Bank, Asian Development Bank – have also developed ESG in consultations with unions.

Rafael Peels from the ILO-ACTRAV introduced ILO standards in the field of wage protection and wage setting, as well as arguments that the unions can use in building their wage demands, embodied in the ILO Conventions and Recommendations as well as in recent Work for a Brighter Future report of the High level commission on Future of Work and the respective ILO Centenary Declaration.

The ITUC wages campaign was presented to the participants by Evelyn Astor of the ITUC Economic and Social Department, who exchanged information about the level of minimal wages in their countries and its “failed” correspondence to the adequate for living incomes. In some countries (e.g. Georgia or Kyrgyzstan) the minimal wages are established without any reference to individual or household needs, while in others the calculation of the minimal living income by the governments is so minimalistic that minimal wages based on it can not sustain workforce even physically. High level of informality and widespread envelop wages, inability of the state to ensure rule of law, corruption further undermine the relevance of minimal wage, collective bargaining and social dialog. There is a need to further discuss fiscal regimes in relation to wage and social protection policies.

Building wages campaign
MDB safeguards
WB and IMF social protection and inequality
World bank MFD-PPP
World bank Just transition
World bank-IMF labour market