PERC updates re COVID-19

The rapid and wide spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus and the COVID-19 disease is unprecedented situation. Here you will find information on global Trade Union actions and national actions, particularly focusing on NIS and SEE sub-regions of the PERC.
Information will be updated constantly. If you would like to share with us information, that would be useful please send it to perc at ituc-csi.org

ITUC page with global updates: COVID-19 Pandemic: News from unions

ETUC page with information from EU countries
ETUC Covid-19 Watch

OECD countries at TUAC:
Trade Union Advisory Committee to the OECD (TUAC): Mapping out trade union and social partners’ responses

News from SEE and NIS:

NIS region:
Cases of disease are registered in all the countries, but while the registered numbers are relatively small compared to EU countries and, as is widely understood, do not portray the real picture, almost all governments are introducing strict measures to prevent the spread. In most of the countries there was introduced a special regime, limiting movement, gatherings and encouraging self-isolation. In some cases stricter rules as curfew were introduced. Generally the region is still moving towards the stricter measures and stoppage of the businesses, etc.
Unions had to mobilise to 1) give advice to members on what rights workers have according to the current legislation (sick leaves, distant work, etc), 2) how to streamline OHS measure to be better protected. Some opened dedicated hotlines. 3) come with initiatives and/or positions to agree on additional social security, jobs and income protection.
Country situations (based on info received from affiliates, their web-sites and news agencies:

Belarus. Statement of Executive Committee of Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions
BKDP calls on the Belarusian government to fundamentally change its policy of underestimating the threat, that country is facing and to review its decisions on no need of introducing quarantine, and take all exhaustive actions and measures aimed at preventing the uncontrolled spread of the virus and minimizing the damage it causes.

Azerbaijan: Special fund to tackle COVID is established by the President, supported by individuals and businesses. A special working group to tackle labour issues is set up. AHIK is part of it. The aim is to monitor the situation, ensure worker’s rights and social protection and sanction the dishonest business for firing workers and non-payment of wages using the pretext of COVID. However a number of measures to support business and keep jobs is also on the table. Non-essential enterprises are closed, with workers in administrative leave, with 2/3 of salaries paid.
Original info in Azerbaijanese

Ukraine. The country is in quarantine. Government introduced some tax alleviation measures for businesses, a ban for state inspections. Legal status of force-majeure. On March 17, the Verkhovna Rada adopted a law amending certain legislation to prevent the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19). It provides that health care workers dealing with coronavirus outbreak will receive up to 200% allowances to their wages. Additional payments will also be made to certain categories of workers providing vital services. Lump sum of UAH 1000 (EUR30) will be paid in April to those pensioners whose pension is lower UAH 5000 (EUR160).

KVPU Newsletter: Tackling COVID-19 and protecting labour rights
The KVPU and its regional and branch organizations are continuingto monitor the situation with labour rights. KVPU started the campaign“What is your quarantine situation?’to show best practices at enterprises, highlight violations of workers’ rights and urge workers to inform about their problems.

FPU has set up a special web-page where they publish all the info on COVID covering the issue of remuneration, health and safety issues, the issue of vacations, payment of sick leave, unemployment. FPU urged the public authorities and employers to take all possible steps in order to: prevent dismissal of workers that have temporarily suspended/reduced their production activities and services in accordance with Government decisions, as well as to avoid any violation of workers’ rights guaranteed by law and collective agreements in case of suspension of work; no worker, including informal sector workers, temporary or subcontracted workers, should suffer from wage loss or deterioration working conditions during quarantine; where possible, send the workers to telework from home, keeping their wages; at the request of the worker, to agree with him short working hours or paid leave, if necessary, to provide sick leave; trade unions’ and workers’ rights should be at the heart of the COVID response, they are important to reduce the risks and built confidence; necessary preventive and protective measures must be introduced at the workplaces in order to protect of the health of workers, especially those at the forefront of the fight with the epidemic outbreak.

Armenia.: the country declared state of emergency till 14th of April. The Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs has taken the initiatives to draft the amendments to the Code of Labor of RA to regulate the labor relations in the state of emergency. The CTUA has presented its proposals concerning the payments of the salaries during the special cases such as pandemic situations. Besides this, the CTUA is working during these days by helping the employees online or by phone with the legal advices, by making legal clarifications of the situation which the employees are facing now by media.
KPA’s Trade Union Organizations of Miners, Metallurgists and Jewelers o organized online meeting with the employers in order to exclude or to reduce the risks to the health of the employees, to follow all regulations of hygiene adopted by the Government, to obtain the masks, alcogels, protective gloves, non-contact thermometers and etc which are obligatory to use for protection of the health. The result of above-mentioned collective bargainings the employees of the above mentioned field will be paid 2/3 of their tariff rate salary during possible and/or enforced idleness of the enterprise.
KPA information: COVID-19 measures

Georgia: State of Emergency was introduced untill 21 of April, the Government introduces quarantine in some parts of the country. Quarantine for workers equals the payment for sick leave. Those who refuse to self-isolate may be forced into quarantine by police.
In response, on March 24-29, new guidelines were issued for various sectors: construction, services, trade sectors, etc., detailing labour health and safety standards during the virus, including GTUC request to emphasize the employer’s obligation to ensure that employees are not only provided with collective, but also individual protection gear (protection masks, gloves, disinfectant, etc.).
From the first days, GTUC called on the Georgian government to set up a special fund to raise funds to support measures against Covid-19. The government has set up such a fund, where GTUC has transferred GEL 20,000 (EUR6300) and in addition, they have offered two facilities in Kobuleti and Kechkhobi to the government for quarantine purposes.
In addition, GTUC provided food products and personal protective equipment to workers: health care personnel, journalists, railway workers, metro workers, couriers, etc.
GTUC appealed to the government to postpone utility bills for at least two months for those who became unemployed and provide certain financial assistance to those who need it most. In this process, the needs of the self-employed who account for almost 48% of total employment are especially significant.
GTUC is currently working on an initiative that will give parents who have kindergarten and school age children a flexible working regime or possibility to work remotely in order to enable them to take care of their children during the school suspension. Also, another important issue is provision of transport for employees by employers that we have already managed to achieve in several companies.

Moldova. in state of emergency, incentive measures to medical workers, additional funds for hospitals released. CNSM has issued recommendations for labour issues and OHS measures. It calls to arrange flexible hours, individual work time, working from home in agreement with the workers, registration of stoppage of the enterprise with payment of 2/3 of the basic income, paid regular vacations, also to comply fully with OHS measures (PPE etc) as stipulated in the legislation.
Original article in RU
Federation of healthcare workers is following situation and supporting healthcare workers on daily basis. Original article in RU

Russia: restrictions introduced, getting stricter with growing numbers. COVID situations is legally a force-majeure. Quarantined people have to be considered on sick leave and are supposed to get 2 weeks payment. Additional incentive for people over 65 to self-isolate – around 45EUR onetime payment for Moscow region. Have to be considered on sick leave, if they work. Central bank called for mortgage and loan reliefs for individuals, but no state ruling yet. On March 25, the President’s addressed the people. He announced a week of official days off, to ensure uninterrupted and timely social payments, sick pay (not lower than the minimum wage), increased unemployment payments to the minimum wage, noted the need for credit reliefs in case of loss of income, reduced the tax burden for small and medium-sized businesses, including reduced insurance contributions to 15% instead of 30% for those whose salaries are above the minimum wage. He also introduced a tax on interest on individuals’ deposits in banks in excess of 1 million rubles (11k EUR), income from bonds and securities, and also introduced a tax on dividends that go abroad.

Unions are working in the tri-partite commission to have proper labour arrangement in response to COVID, mostly related to arrangement of distant working and compensations so that to protect workers’ interests. The prime-minister calls not to dismiss people during COVID outbreak. Both affiliates are publishing legal and OHS advice on how to protect on workplaces during the COVID.

SEE region:

Due to the spreading of COVID-19, all the governments are adopting very strict measures and restrictions to the freedom of movement of the population. Serbia and BiH introduced curfew, other countries restricted the movement, they shut down services, and this situation automatically impacts normal functioning of individual sectors in which workers are losing their jobs; SMEs face difficulties in functioning, which resulted in a fact that a huge number of workers staying without labour contract, and massive dismissals are expected. Small economies cannot take such the blockade in the work, trade unions are sending their demands to the governments in which they list ample matters that the governments should urgently work on to find solutions (such as establishment of special funds aimed at stimulation of employers to keep their employees or certain Social agreements between governments, employers and trade unions, or adoption of decision and decrees aimed at facilitating the survival of workers and citizens; trade unions also demand equal distribution of burden incurred by the current damages, they should not only be borne by the workers). Additional mitigations are demanded including financial aid to the most vulnerable categories of population and pensioners.

Croatia: the state undertakes measures to protect its population, however the trade unions also have their demands – protection of workers. The instructions given to the UATUC trade union members are: a worker comes to his or her job, unless employer decides to allow “the work from home”, in both cases with 100% of the wage; a worker may refuse to work if the protective measures at work are not provided; if a worker is not working for his or her employer on the ground that s/he is in self quarantine or quarantine, ordered by the competent authority, whereas the type of job is such that the work from other places is not possible, such a worker is entitled to compensation from the Healthcare fond; if a worker is infected by COVID-19 (confirmed infection or developed symptoms caused by the infection), s/he is entitled to sick leave covered by 70% compensation from the wage, and is entitled to 100% compensation of the wage if infected at work, which infection will have to be proven.
If employer sends workers to annual leave, the employer has to pay the wage to the worker as agreed in the collective agreement, regulation on the labour or labour contract, however at least in the amount of the worker’s average monthly wage paid in the previous three months; extraordinary circumstance caused by COVID-19 outbreak cannot be the justified ground to terminate labour contract, including the extraordinary termination of employment. Trade unions also demanded the mitigation of economic and social consequences. Additional problems were created by the earthquake, which affected Zagreb on 22 March 2020, and resulted in one casualty, a number of injured persons, and devastation on a number of residential buildings and trade union working premises.

Serbia: Trade unions insist on getting some responses from the Government concerning the extraordinary situation on the following issues: purchase of personal protective equipment for the workers which are still at their workplaces; TUs insist for a proper transport from home to work and back; the modality of determination and payment of wages of the parents of children up to 12 years of age who were asked to stay at their homes and take care of their children; options for determining a remuneration of wage established by the general act of employers and by the labour contracts for the period of interruption of working process caused by an order of a state institution or by an order of employer related to the temporary lack of occupational safety and health and labour status of workers and the means for determination and payment of wages to the workers asked to stay in quarantine. TUs have also asked their members to activate their OSH committees in the enterprises, to organize meetings and inform the membership, and to organize solidarity actions for the members in need. They have also encouraged their members to keep insisting that their employers provide them with the personal protective equipment. TU demand to introduce a measure of moratorium to dismissals for the period of 3 months has been discussed at the ESC meeting, but unfortunately the Government has not accepted this demand, but promised to help to employers of small size enterprises.

Albania: TUs demands to Albanian Government are the following: For 50% increase of the salary for all health staff in the country, who will be engaged in the fight against COVID 19 during the period of crisis with COVID. The reward should be for all employees, ranging from executives, doctors, nurses, sanitation and hospital guards; to monitor pharmacies, not to abuse the price of protective equipment; Quarantine hospitals being set up in each city of the country to isolate suspected persons infected with COVID and establish an emergency headquarters; all parents who have children in kindergarten, pre-school and 9-year education, one of the parents must obtain permission to work with fair pay; to Increase security and security measures for companies and enterprises of over 500 employees working indoors as a call center or front desk. TU demand to the Labour Inspectorate and the Health Inspectorate to control the entry and exit of the employees with thermal cameras; The government should consider closing these businesses temporarily if they do not have the capacity to manage and control if these businesses with over 500 employees fail to provide Covid 19 protection and security to their employees; Public and private employers to cooperate not only with law enforcement agencies but also with all those employees who will need permission or financial or financial support to overcome this difficult situation; Municipalities should order to stop work, urban transport lines or these lines should not take more than half of their capacity. If this rule does not apply, companies will face sanctions until the license is revoked; The Municipality of Tirana should periodically disinfect all public places, urban stations, interurban stations in public transport vehicles.

Bosnia and Herzegovina: TUs requested by the governments the following : to ensure respect for workers’ rights, including regular payment of salaries and benefits in accordance with legal requirements; To impose increased surveillance on inspection bodies to prevent malpractice employers from using the pandemic to dismiss redundant workers or to reduce their salaries and allowances; to ensure that workers who are compelled to remain in isolation on suspicion of being infected with the Corona virus or having to pay the full amount of wages and benefits for the period spent in isolation with children who are in isolation; to ensure full observance of the Labour Law, to require employers to introduce additional occupational safety measures to reduce the risk of exposure of workers, especially workers in health care, services, utilities, police and public institutions; to ensure salary increasing for healthcare professionals and workers in utility sector, who make every day a maximum effort to protect citizens and ensure a normal life. Government promised to postpone payment of VAT to companies as a kind of benefit , but final decision has not been taken yet.

Montenegro: Paid sick leave 15 days from 16 March and chances are that this deadline will be extended. This applies to one employed parent who has a child not older than 11 years. In the case of the absence of one of the parents of a child under the age of 11, this is considered as paid leave. Employees for whom the employers have organized working from home are expected to receive 100% of their earnings. In the case of companies that are prohibited from working by the Government order (catering, retail, hotel, etc.), a salary amounting to 70% of the basis for compensation shall be paid to employees (basis for compensation is average salary earned in the previous 6 months) (Article 1 of the Labour Law and General Collective Agreement on payment of salary to an employee in cases where there was a termination of work without the fault of the employee). Postponement of payment of taxes and contributions on earnings as well as obligations has been introduced as well, under the Law on Rescheduling Tax Debt. Creation of a new credit line of the Investment and Development Fund of Montenegro intended to improve the liquidity of entrepreneurs, micro, small, medium and large enterprises up to a maximum amount of EUR3 million per user, in a simplified procedure, without approval fee and with an interest rate of only 1.5%. This appropriation is intended for use by companies operating in the fields of the procurement of medicines, medical equipment and vehicles; tourism and catering; traffic; services; food production and processing. Financial assistance in the amount of 50 euro for 8,583 beneficiaries of financial support for the family. 11,957 pensioners receiving a minimum pension received a one-time allowance of 50 euro per each of them. Postponement for 90 days of credits payment at the request of citizens and companies with all banks, micro-credit institutions and IDF of Montenegro.

Macedonia: The Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia demands adoption of set of emergency measures that shall help workers, businesses and public services to survive the crisis regarding the COVID-19 so that they can return to their normal activities when it is over. All measures should be aimed at saving jobs mitigating financial losses while protecting workers against unemployment and loss of income. People who are sick, who care for family members or are unable to work due to Coronavirus should not suffer financially, so the government needs to provide financial assistance to all employees. In this regard, CCM demands:- the Government to provide financial assistance to workers who are sick or looking after a family member with COVID - 19 (financial resources, loan write-offs, reduction or deduction from overheads, etc.);- There is a need for measures and providing financial assistance to self-employed workers, intellectual activities that cannot perform business due to the virus (a certain amount of financial assistance for families, tax exemptions or a reduction in tax liabilities)- the Government to provide financial assistance and support to companies that will not be able to perform business due to the COVID-19 or they will perform with significantly reduced volume, primarily and exclusively to provide workers with a salary;- Companies to provide hygiene conditions for employees in accordance with WHO recommendations (as well as the recommendations of the Government of RNM) and adequate hygiene protection of premises and facilities;- Companies to provide hygienic means for protection of consumers and service users and to anticipate the dynamics and manner of using the services without the presence of large numbers of people in the premises (in accordance with the recommendations of WHO and the Government of RNM);- the Government to provide necessary hygienic means for the protection of employees in public enterprises and institutions;- to reorganize the work and reduce the number of employees in the workplace, rotate the staff (to introduce work from home, work time, etc.) for which 100% salary will be paid;- Fully comply with the recommendations for workers with children up to 10 years, chronically ill employees, etc. to be released from work.

Kosovo: based on the recommendations of the WHO and Ministry of Health of Kosovo regarding COVID, the BSPK has send a letter to the Government asking as follows: BSPK, requires from all relevant institutions and employers organizations to take all needed measures for occupational health and safety for all workers of Kosovo in public and private sectors. TU suggest to all workers of Kosovo to respect and support the recommendations of the Ministry of Health respectively Government of the Republic of Kosovo in order to prevent the danger of the spread of corona virus and to take all safety measures by staying at home.