2016. április 4-5-én került sor a LIGA Szakszervezetek a „Kísérlet egyes Közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" című pályázat keretein belül a harmadik nemzetközi munkacsoport találkozóra Rigában, Lettországban. A szeminárium célcsoportja fiatalok és szervezők voltak. A rendezvényre az összes projektpartner küldött résztvevőket, így a lett LBAS, a litván Solidarumas, a bolgár Podkrepa, a francia CFDT, a lengyel OPZZ és a magyar LIGA Szakszervezetek egyaránt. A LIGA részéről többek közt a MEDOSZ, a HOSZ, a VISZ és a Baranya megyei LIGA Szakszervezetek képviselői vettek részt a közös munkában.
2016. március elején került sor a LIGA Szakszervezetek „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" című projekt keretén belül a második nemzetközi munkacsoport találkozóra Szófiában, Bulgáriában. A szemináriumon 30-an vettek részt több országból, Magyarországról többek között a Honvédszakszervezet, a Magyar Orvosok Szövetsége, és a Független Rendőr Szakszervezet képviselői voltak jelen, valamint a Szegedi Tudományegyetem szakértője.
2016. február elsején és másodikán került sor a LIGA Szakszervezetek „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" című projektjén keretén belül az első nemzetközi munkacsoport találkozóra Vilniusban, Litvániában.
Lettország és Magyarország fővárosa között közel 1500 km a távolság, autóval egy egynapos „kirándulás", repülővel bő két óra alatt megközelíthető. Lettország Észak-kelet Európában helyezkedik el, a három balti ország – Észtország, Lettország és Litvánia – egyike, ugyan már a múlt része, mégis kisebb-nagyobb mértékben még érezhető a volt Szovjetunió részeként, illetve annak érdekterületeként töltött időszak hatása. Az ország még a tízmilliós Magyarországnál is kevesebb lakót számlál, alig közelíti meg a kétmillió főt. Mivel ez nem egy utazási blogbejegyzés, ezért ezen a ponton át is térünk a címben jelzett témára, Lettország munkaügyi kapcsolataira. Az alábbi összefoglaló a teljesség igénye nélkül készült, magyar szemüvegen keresztül nézve.
A LIGA Szakszervezetek Európai Unió társfinanszírozásával megvalósuló „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" elnevezésű projektjének keretében újabb eseményre került sor 2015. április 3-án Budapesten, az NH Budapest City hotelben.
A „Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára" projekt keretében 2015.január 30–án Budapesten a Lion's Garden Hotelben került sor a projektindító megbeszélésre. A találkozón a LIGA Szakszervezetek képviselői mellett részt vettek a projektben résztvevő szakszervezetek képviselői, Tekaya Maher a francia CFDT-től, Jurgita Žiūkienė a litván LPSS-től, Veselina Starcheva a bolgár Podkrepától és Liene Liekna a lett LBAS-tól.
A LIGA Szakszervezetek 2014 decemberében indíthatta el legújabb nemzetközi kutatási és képzési projektjét, miután sikeresen pályázott az Európai Bizottság Foglalkoztatási, Szociális ügyek és Társadalmi Befogadásért felelős Főosztálya által kiírt a „Szakértelem fejlesztése a munkaügyi kapcsolatok területén" elnevezésű felhívására. A VS/2014/0588 referenciaszámot viselő, " Kísérlet egyes közép-kelet európai országokban a társadalmi párbeszéd és a nemzeti munkaügyi kapcsolatok revitalizációjára - amit tanultunk és a legjobb gyakorlatok a válságból való kilábalás kapcsán" név alatt futó projekt megvalósítására 10 százaléknyi önerő vállalása mellett 153 998 EUR pénzügyi támogatás és 2 év áll rendelkezésre.
International workgroup meeting in Riga, Latvia
This summary is to thematically follow the topics and discussions of the workgroup meeting but will place primary focus on feedbacks, questions and experiences shared by the experts rather than the extensive summary of the actual presentations.
The first speaker of the meeting was Ms.
Livija Marcinkevica, Vice-President of LBAS, Latvia. She provided the opening thoughts to the meeting in which she emphasized how the structure and nature of relations between employees and employers are changing. According to her argument, we are experiencing a period when sectors are shrinking and new ones are constantly emerging. It is of utmost importance for trade unions to be able to adapt to such changes and regardless of all the circumstances, be able to increase the number of their members. Unfortunately most people (in Latvia at least) seem to think that trade unions are only important during the events of public protests or strikes. Social dialogue is a suitable tool to show people that that is not the case and that people should be able to rely on trade unions in their everyday work-life as well.
The Project itself was introduced by the Project Manager, Ms.
Melinda Kelemen from LIGA Trade Unions, Hungary, placing the emphasis on the main goals set to achieve by the workgroup meeting at hand as well as the results of the past ones and the project itself in general.
Later, the Latvian situation was presented by Ms.
Raita Karnite, Head of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department of the Latvian Academy of Sciences. She told that Latvia is in a rather privileged situation (unique even, considering other EU member states) in the sense that there is only one representative, national level confederation of both employees and employers in Latvia. However the situation is far from perfect as according to practice, decisions are made solely by the government and previously concluded agreements between employees and employers might only be considered partially or might not be respected at all. There has also been a rather drastic decrease of trade union membership (numerically speaking: overall membership decreased by 90% over the course of 20 years) which naturally results in capacity issues.
Following the presentation, Ms. Karnite answered questions from the audience. An expert was curious if the government supports trade unions adequately or not. Ms. Karnite admitted this to be a complex question as (according to her) “nobody likes trade unions in general”, neither from the employers’ nor from the employees’ side but it is their job to protect employees’ economic and social rights and interests.
After the presentation of the Hungarian situation by Mr.
Balázs Rossu, Assistant Professor at the University of Szeged, there were questions about how the sectoral regulation of trade unions and collective bargaining works and what could possibly be the problem with it if there is an act on it directly. The answer to which was that people in general are not familiar with legal texts in Hungary and when it comes to the world of work, the first (and usually only) act they check for information is the one on the Labour Code, which regulates only the local level.
Another expert wanted to know the nature of the relationship between trade unions and the prime minister or the government in general. This is an extremely complex and sensitive question in Hungary as there are not too many members of trade unions in general and bigger (national level) trade union confederations rather have member organizations than actual members, which means it is extremely hard to get the financials required for operation. For this reason they are quite dependent on the financial support provided by the government, which naturally questions their independence from the state.
The Bulgarian case was presented next, by Mr.
Adrian Iliev, Senior Industrial Relations Fellow, who mentioned how amendments of the labour code affected the situation. Some parts of the previous regulations were removed entirely in order to provide a more free situation for employers. Temporary agencies have been introduced and it became a common practice to employ people for only 24 hours. The reasons for the introduction of such institutions (as provided by the state) were pressure by the European Union. As a result of recent changes there are some special forms of agreements made possible regarding working hours that are especially unfavourable to employees. One of these is the so called “combined working hours” (similar to the Hungarian regulation of “working time banking”) according to which, it is possible to tell the employee “on the spot” that his or her working day has been moved to a different date (which may as well be one he or she already reserved for holiday or paid leave). As negative as it may sound, currently law is not designed to protect social standards.
Arvydas Guogis was the next presenter, who talked about the situation in Lithuania in detail. Answering a question from the audience, he told that although there are no exact data available, the situation of Polish and Russian minorities should be considered good, but when it comes to the question of trade unions, the structure varies greatly from sector to sector. For example not many Polish people are present in the educational sector, whereas many trade union members in the healthcare sector are in fact Polish.
Answering another question, Mr. Guogis said that in order to improve the trade union situation (or at least their visibility) in Lithuania they aim to conclude sectoral level agreements in the near future and also realize a “new social model”.
The Polish situation was presented by Mr.
Jan Czarzasty from the Warsaw School of Economics/ Formac Polonia, Poland. According to him, the new social dialogue body will and currently is bringing change, “although slowly but steadily” (as he put it). The previous legislation only mentioned employees as subjects of trade union rights (which violated ILO Convention No. 87 and also the Polish constitution). A complaint was filed approximately five years earlier which has been accepted recently and as a result, the text of the legislation has been changed. According to Mr. Czarzasty, the question of self employed people has always been an issue in Poland but finally it seems to be legally settled (as they also were given basic trade union rights).
The final presentation of the day was by Mr.
Tekaya Maher, Confederal Secretary, France, who presented the situation in France. He emphasized the need for a reform in his country and as a reason he mentioned the extremely low rate of trade union membership. The questions of representativeness of trade unions and confederations in France were also presented in detail.
During the roundtable discussions, the experts and representatives from
Latvia told that during a previous project focusing on new trade union members had a rather positive effect. During the course of this project, every company could report if they could recruit new members, and if they could, they were rewarded (financially).
It is generally difficult to get new members to join, but already existing ones can meet (e.g. during lunch breaks) and influence people to join. This seems to work well in the financial sector but in most cases people are not willing to spend time on such things after their working hours (or during their breaks for that matter).
In Latvia, it is common to have small or even micro companies, where trade union activity is extremely difficult if not impossible.
According to representatives, structural funds are used by Latvian trade unions as well in order to be able to function.
Experts also added that different materials are being published constantly to appeal to all trade union members and possibly to those too who are only considering to join (in the future).
In Latvia there is a Youth Council that organizes movie showing events (with free snacks) for young people and provides a possibility to talk and interact socially after the movie.
There is also a period every year, when different sports events are being organized by trade unions to better connect to members (and members-to-be).
Unfortunately, the general thought about trade unions is rather negative and it is a common occurrence that future events are overshadowed by past failures.
There seems to be a form of miscommunication also, as should there be an amendment of a legal act, the general public does not know if the trade unions had to do anything with it or not. A possible solution may be to strengthen connection with mass media.
According to the experts and representatives from
Hungary, it is highly important to place emphasis on raising awareness about rules regarding the world of work (including trade unions) among high school students. The material has already been prepared, the next step is to disseminate it.
In Hungary, 70-75% of the companies are SMEs and LIGA aims to include such companies in order to be able to protect employees there as well. There was a project with this exact goal (to include SME employees) which lasted for two years. At the end of the first year, it seemed clear that not many new members are actually going to join from the visited SMEs but it is a positive outcome that many companies got to know that trade unions exist and actually operate in Hungary and that LIGA is there for all employees seeking help in representing their needs and interests.
Experts also mentioned that the need to organize a trade union without sectoral or professional restrictions arose (meaning any employee or worker of any sector or profession could join), as this way, help would always be available locally.
It seems to be a common practice that press comments and materials are assembled by trade unions themselves and these are being disseminated.
Bulgarian experts told that there has been a conference organized on decent work aiming to increase both the visibility of trade unions and that of truly relevant questions.
They talked about how low the wages are in Bulgaria and that nobody is actually trying to determine why exactly is this the case.
There were projects that allowed young people to try and work for trade unions for a year. It may be considered a major success as most of these people are still working for the trade unions they were working for during the course of the project. They are either employed full time or part time but either way have an active connection to trade unions.
Practice shows that in order to attract the attention of mass media, there should be two or three key words that may sound interesting for the media (itself).
An expert from
Lithuania added that there is a special trade union for young people in Latvia which offers legal aid to them and they do not have to be employed in order to be able to join, as they might just be looking to be employed for the first time but might not even be sure in which sector they are going to find a job, which means that the available sectoral trade union might not be the best choice for them. Also, young people are flexible and more mobile, which means that the available regional trade unions might not be able to suit their needs either. It is important that these trade unions have young officials as well to make it more attractive to young people. It is also very important to financially support this youth trade union as the youth (in general) do not have money, which naturally means that membership fees cannot be high.
Poland told that there seems to be a problem with Ukrainian people in Poland and as a form of solution, they have special trade unions for Ukrainian workers. This is a new project in which they try to arrange an agreement on a confederational level (to work together with Ukrainian trade unions).
They also argued that without general revitalization of trade unions, “de-unionization” will not stop. To counter this “trend”, actions should be taken on a cross-sectoral level.
Experts also added that newspaper seems to be a suitable media to let people know about trade union activities and various programs/ projects organized by them.
The expert from
France added that all trade unions have their own history and traditional methods and that there is unlikely for bad practices to even exist regarding the question of connecting mass media.
He argued that a
strike is just a tool. It may very well be the ultimate tool but it is not to be used often and it should be kept in mind that in many cases, a strike is not popular and as such, can easily be counterproductive for trade unions.
Above all, trade unions should be more adaptive to society itself and (constantly) changing social trends.
Trade unions must (but at least should) be able to protect the rights of people working from their homes for example or those who like to change their workplaces often.