Right to join a union – important factor for good social dialogue (experiences of the EU countries)

In the period of 27-30 April, 2011 in Ohrid, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, a seminar supported by EZA and the European Union took place, entitled “Right to join a union – important factor for good social dialogue (experiences of the EU countries)”. 37 representatives of the regional offices of UNASM, Skopje, Ohrid, Struga, Prilep and Delchevo, representatives of BSPK Kosovo, Promyana Bulgaria, Campulung Muscel – Romania, SSM, KSS, OPM BKM and from EZA participated in the seminar.


• What is the most important aspect of the seminar?

To inform participants at the seminar on the basic themes, to explain to them the importance for law regulation regarding the freedom of assembly and to achieve greater representation by including representatives coming from different fields and social structures, to explain to them the social dialogue process in the EU countries.

Participation of more representatives of the social partners from other countries  will contribute to better informing  on positive and  negative practises regarding the right to assemble and the implementation of the right model for free organizing in order to protect workers’ rights.


• Why is this seminar important in this moment?

The legal regulation that covers labour relations in Macedonia originates from the country’s Constitution, from the relevant conventions of the International Labour Organization and from the labour relations law.

Article 20, paragraph 1from the Constitution of RM states: “all citizens are free to assemble in order to realize and protect their political, economic, social and cultural rights and believes”.

Last amendments and additions of the labour relations law of RM left a lot of citizens and ITUC-ETUC-PERC experts discontent since they think that it is not in accordance with the EU directives and EU way of organizing (this refers to the articles that oblige re-registration of already registered trade unions).

As experts pointed out the law is directly against trade unions, we agree that the labour relations law should be respected and we should also make a consensus and act jointly. It is fact that laws should be based on principles, and not on calculations.  If registration was a problem then the changes of the law in 2009 doubled it with re-registration. International conventions and declarations give workers the right of assembly which cannot be abused by the government, but to let workers organize themselves without threats or enforcement.  In that way they would be able to defend their rights in an organized form. Re-registration of trade unions breaches the right of assembly. Social dialogue is process of the government, trade unions and employers and that is why governments must not abuse trade unions.


• Which topics were discussed?

The right to in a union according to the labour relations law of RM, the right to assemble, important factor for good social dialogue (experiences from the EU countries).

A lot of debates took place regarding these topics because there is a great misbalance between the things comprised in the law and the real situation in RM that are not taken into consideration while implementing the legal regulation.


• Were there any presentations? Which subject were they on? What is their contribution?

The president, Slobodan Antovsku, made a short introduction referring to the history of UNASM and he also presented the attitude of UNASM regarding the seminar theme. He also presented the project supported by EZA and EU and its goal.

A representative of the Ministry for labour and social policy had a presentation for the labour relations law, especially paying attention to the right to assembly. Representatives of the social partners, of trade unions and of the employers expressed their point of view related to the labour relations law and of the situation in RM.

As far as the presentations held by representatives from the other countries, they were followed with a huge attention and their presentations provoked further discussions.

Matthias Homey, EZA, made a presentation on the work of EZA and on the situation of the labour market in the EU countries.

Unemployment will increase with time because of the different economic influences on the countries. The labour market will need more and more high-quality stuff. At the same time, skilled young people with university diploma will have no problems finding a job. Strategies have been made for young people to obtain better work in the EU. In its program, EZA gives young people the possibility to take part in it with their ideas, initiatives in order to improve the status of young people in EU.

Joachim Herudek said that trade unions and employers, they both have interests, workers’ rights and business, but that must be mutual and less damaging for both sides. He also pointed out that on European level there is a platform which all institutions and organizations that protect workers’ rights are members of. But, one thing is certain. Trade unions must defend themselves from the influence of the political parties that want to abuse them.

Both representatives of EZA made their contributions and answered a lot of questions raised in relation with the subject.

Iulian Zanvetor- Campulung Muscel – Romania put accent on the Romanian government that together with trade unions try to improve workers’ rights and to make collective agreements that includes the right to strike. Trade unions became more active in time when the first conference on workers’ rights takes place and consequently they were supported with foreign capital in order to improve the economy and the rights mentioned above.

Romania is an agricultural country. People who live in this field are no registered, they work illegally and the number of these people is estimated to be about 4 million. In the private sector of Romania there is a quite small number of formed trade union organizations and even if there are, workers’ protection is not satisfactory. Romania strives to improve social dialogue, but citizens must show greater initiative. As a conclusion, I would like to point out that all countries that try to improve their social dialogue must have a clear vision of how to improve and promote workers’ rights and to simultaneously include all relevant institutions, employers’ associations, trade unions, civil organizations.

Pancho Mutavchiev from Promyana, Bulgaria, pointed out that that day was a day to remember and that RM and the trade union movement need these kind of organization.

“As an old UNASM’s friend, I am currently promoting trade unionism in Bulgaria. In the past the main principle was better for me than for the other. This is a miracle that representatives of all trade unions sit here united and at the same time they have signed a cooperation memorandum which I believe is to be realized. The siuation in Bulgaria is the same even though we have not yet started to work together.

I witnessed a very interesting event. I have heard very different ideas and experiences from different countries that are gathered here, especially countries that are not members of the EU and that can create mutual organization which would meet twice in a month.”

Fadil Ademi from BSPK, Kosovo pointed out that the Trade union of police officers was formed in Kosovo at the end of 2005, a trade union that is part of the Independent trade unions of Kosovo. Since then, we had several occasions to sign collective agreements, but from objective reasons we have always been stopped. Currently, in Kosovo there is not beginning of a social dialogue and the health and social insurance is not enough.

Rade Nenadic from the Employers Organization of Macedonia, and as a member of the Economic and social council, pointed out that young population must continue handling the challenges because that is really appreciated in the EU where the potential of a youngster is respected. In the EU there are different sorts of education funds for young people that should be followed and applied for in order to achieve a certain educational level.  I just want to point out that youngsters may also turn to temporary employment agencies where they can find job. They can also prequalify or upgrade themselves in order to obtain the wanted work or the work they have applied for. We must stop youth unemployment because youngsters can do their best to improve their status in the society. I just want to highlight that in Macedonia the unemployment rate is 32% and the poverty is on the porch. This country must find ways to include young people in the society and to improve their status.

Risto Pejovski from UNASM pointed out the on the Balkans there is not division between personal and collective interests. There is also lack of information for the reality seen by employers, workers, etc. and that is why I feel handicapped and it feels like we are caught in our own traps.


• Results of the seminar



Participants expressed their need for further education on the following topics:

-ways and means for assembling workers

-increase of legal protection

-help and development of young people and women

-improvement and development of the social dialogue

-increased surveillance of temporary workers



-It was affirmed that the situation in the region are almost identical and a creation of network of trade unions, employers, and NGOs was initiated in order to mutually work in this field.

-To raise more questions for several parts of the region, for young people, women and workers, and continuation of the activities.

Political parties must not forbid workers to get out on the streets on the 1st of May by offering them meat or a glass of beer;

An individual culture is needed because otherwise the work of trade unions would be useless;

To ask the government to make real insight of the representation and a give workers possibility to join any trade union they want;

As trade unions, to make a mutual accord of the priorities we have and collective agreements should be priority number one;

-Strengthening the capacities of trade unions and their representatives be included in the programs.

-To introduce campaigns on different topics and from different fields concerning working relations

-Access to information regarding Europe 2020 that has as a priority the increase of the employment rate for 75%;


A conclusion was drawn that these kinds of seminars should also have representatives from the Ministry of labour and social policy, preferably the minister or the vice minister because they are the most competent when decision-making process, strategies and programs, changes of the legal regulation are being concerned.