PERC School. COVID-19 situation and challenges

The PERC School took place on 25-26 of February by videoconferencing. Trade union leaders discussed the situation in the region marked by continuous restrictions imposed by the governments to mitigate COVID-19 proliferation. Vaccination programmes started with different approaches, different vaccines, different pace.

Some countries that own vaccines production or had specific deals with providers, managed to advance faster, e.g. UK, Serbia or Russia, while others yet to see the process to be started. Vaccines nationalism, subordination to geopolitical interests, unreadiness to share recipes by Big Pharma threatens collective efforts, bring further tensions and divisions – between and within the countries. While some of the governments started gradually removing limitations, others face necessity to impose new ones. Rapid testing that could be an ingredient to solution still is not exercised widely. At the same time, weariness of population, enterprises, societies only grow, fueling discontent that resulted in acts of disobedience and eventually into skirmishes between protesters and forces of order in several countries.

Tim Noonan, ITUC Campaigns Director, presented global trade union assessment of the pandemic and collective efforts to tackle it, vaccination ( and rapid testing ( in particular.

Luca Visentini, PERC and ETUC General Secretary, introduced the EU policies, agenda of the Portuguese Presidency to further advance several important avenues, which would have influence far beyond the EU member states, including minimum the action plan to implement European Pillar of Social Rights work, wage and collective bargaining directive, regulation of platform work, due diligence framework, pay transparency directive, green deal, and others.
Liina Carr introduced the EU Multi-Annual Financial Framework long-term budget for 2021-2027 combined with the temporary recovery instrument, NextGenerationEU and the support of the EU to countries in Neighbourhood through specific instruments. The new broad NDICI, new instrument will cover the EU cooperation with all third countries and that will include not only former ENI, but many other instruments in ENP frame.

The school participants also debated the main action points for the year, in line with the ITUC frontlines and pillars, in the region: occupational health and safety campaigns, human and trade union rights and preparation for the International Labour Conference, minimum wage campaigning and just transition in a view of climate imperative and targets. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow addressed the School with introduction to ITUC frontlines and pillars, with key messages of the international trade union movement for the foundation of the new social contract: jobs, rights, equality, social protection and inclusion.

In the discussion, participants raised concerns about national developments in some of the countries, including Belarus and Georgia; outlined several cross-country issues that need urgent debates by the PERC, including, inter alia, gig-economy, telework, social protection, shrinking democratic spaces, care economy and gender equality, effects of the crisis on the most vulnerable groups, multi-national enterprises, challenges of cross-border workers amidst border restrictions and others. Some of the issues are already included in the PERC programme.

The School was organised with the support of ILO-ACTRAV.