PERC sub-regional Wage Forum, Belgrade 16-17 July

On 16 and 17 July a PERC sub-regional Wage Forum took place in Belgrade. It involved leaders and experts from Trade union organisations from Eastern and Western Balkans, Ukraine and Moldova. ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow led the forum, while Evelyn Astor, from ITUC Economic and Social Policies department provided economic evidences for minimal wage increase and for extension of social protection floors.

Low wage and beggar thy neighbour policies that countries of the region implemented for decades after transitioning to market economies brought millions of working people and their families to poverty or to emigration. All countries experiences devastating level of brain drain, with some of them losing one third of population, particular, young and skilled people who left their mother countries in search of decent life – with decent wages, secure employment, quality public service and strong institutions – abroad. While the economies of the countries of that region grew faster than e.g. in Western Europe, that growth is unequally shared due to low minimal wages, poor collective bargaining, unfair and flat taxation policies, wide spread corruption and informal economy.

Bela Galgoczi from the European Trade Union Institute, provided the Forum with arguments for wage increase policies, based on analysis of wage and productivity dynamics in the region and beyond. Magnus Berghe from ACTRAV explained the ILO wage norms and the need to utilise these instruments as well as Decent Work Countries Programme to achieve fairer wages and social protection.

The Forum debated the need for a specific “living wage” campaign in the region and outlined its possible targets, including the governments, MNEs that exploit low wages for boosting its profits, lobbying groups and “investors clubs”, that advance neo-liberal models to the detriment of workers and their unions, as well as international institutions, such as International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the European Union and the International Labour Organisation.

Evelyn Astor Eastern Europe Wage forum
Galgoczi Wage convergence CEE Belgrade
ITUC background paper
Plamen Dimitrov Wage campaign