The 5th PERC Summer School “Building Workers’ Power at the Workplace, the Community and Policy Process”

The 5th PERC Summer School titled “Building Workers’ Power at the Workplace, the Community and Policy Process” took place in Brussels, 18-19 September 2013. This forum traditionally brings together trade union leaders and officials from broad Europe, who discuss together the challenges the European trade union movement is facing and outline ideas to develop union actions.

During the first session “Labour relations in a changing world. What perspectives for the unions?” the key-note speaker Pr. Richard Freeman from Harvard University outlined the ever-changing environment trade unions found themselves in today - of economic uncertainties and inequalities and evolving labour relations, and questioned whether trade unions are visible force in the present world or they lag behind and whether collective bargaining can deliver or new approaches of people’s activism – including in social media – can bring changes by associating people to a right cause.

The economic situation of the European Union was presented by Martine Myatt of the ETUI, while Anton Leppik of the ITUC-PERC introduced to the EU Eastern Partnership policies and trade union assessment of the related activities and perspectives.

The second session “Shifts in Nature of work, labour market and interests” focused on labour market trends and the growth of non-typical employment in Europe. While Agnieszka Piasna of the ETUI and Olga Kulaeva of the ILO focused on the European union and new independent states respectfully, Grigor Gradev raised the challenge of shadow economies in the societies, when the political elites were setting up “the new rules of the game” built on networks of corruption and nepotism. Chair of the Workers group Luc Cortebeek informed the participants about the work of the ILO European Regional Meeting as well as about the situation of employers challenging the entire fabric of the ILO as such and its supervisory mechanisms.

Key-note speaker for the third session “Workplace power building - trade union organising” Jeremy Waddington presented the finding of the research about trade union motivation and relations between workers and union representatives at enterprise level. Chavdar Hristov of the KNSB-Bulgaria presented the campaign to organise workers by using EU directive on information and consultation, Natalya Levitskaya, Vice-President of the KVPU-Ukraine and PERC Women Committee informed about Decisions for Life project organising experiences in Ukraine and the region, and Igor Kovalchuk presented KTR successes in organising green-field companies in Russia. Kacper Stakhowski of the Polish Solidarnosc explained in details the organising approach of his organisation, its organising experience with Kauphland and Liedle.

During the last session “Trade unions, the community and political power building” Sharan Burrow, ITUC General Secretary informed about ITUC General Council anticipated debates on the next World Congress and its ambitions to build workers power. She also called everyone to join and to promote ITUC Qatar campaign that called FIFA to rerun the vote on the country hosting the World Cup 2022. ITUC liaison officer Gemma Swart presented the ITUC global poll and community organising initiatives, while Plamen Dimitrov of the KNSB introduced the remarkable civil protest actions in Bulgaria, the movement that built itself in hours to top up 2 governments in 2013. Uigar Ozesmi of presented the mobilisation platforms in electronic media.

The Summer School was financially supported by the ILO-ACTRAV and LO-TCO Secretariat

Gemma Swart
Martin Myant
Kacper Stahowski
Richard Freeman ETUI conference
Tchavdar Christov
Natalya Levitskaya
Richard Freeman for PERC
Jeremy Waddington