Social partnership of all relevant factors and implementation of structural reforms in the Republic of North Macedonia, the countries of the region and the EU member states

From 4 to 7 June 2019 took place in Struga, North Macedonia, a seminar about “Social partnership of all relevant factors and implementation of structural reforms in the Republic of North Macedonia, the countries of the region and the EU member states”, organized by YHACM - UNASM - UIATUM (Union of Independent Autonomous Trade Unions of Macedonia), with the support of EZA and of the European Union. The seminar was part of the EZA special project for workers’ organizations in the Western Balkans.

49 representatives of workers’ organizations from Albania, Bulgaria, Kosovo (as guests), Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia participated in the seminar.

The president of UNASM, Slobodan Antovski opened the seminar and stated that the biggest problems become drastic and serious from year to year, the number of employees is reducing and, consequently poverty increases. UNASM undertakes different activities in terms of improving social dialogue in North Macedonia by improving the Labor Code and Collective Bargaining Agreements, and supporting good relations with the relevant social partners, as well as participation in the Law on minimum wage, accentuating at the same time decent work. The workers do not have enough incomes to cover the basic everyday costs, they cannot establish work-life balance. Young people are unemployed and they cannot get out of the country to see how their peers are fighting for their rights, the textile workers are not organized in trade unions, or, in one word, the North Macedonian society is in a desperate and difficult situation.

The Project “Social partnership of all relevant factors and implementation of the structural reforms in the Republic of North Macedonia, countries of the region and the EU member states” was promoted in the course of the discussion.

The objective of the seminar was to raise the awareness of the members of trade unions, of the employers, representatives of the Ministry, of universities and other experts in the field of labour relations about the social partnership and the participation of the workers in the development and implementation of structural reforms by exchanging experiences and practices of other EU member states.

In its long years of functioning, UNASM has perceived a series of irregularities in the implementation of social dialogue in the Republic of North Macedonia. UNSAM has reacted a lot in the implementation of legal acts bringing improper steps made by trade union organizations when it comes to workers’ rights protection. The Republic of North Macedonia has signed numerous international conventions on workers’ rights protection, but, unfortunately, they are not sufficiently respected by the Government, which leads to social tensions and violation of legal acts and regulations.

Western Balkans is in the focus of the European Union having into consideration that all the countries are facing similar or same problems. Part of the institutions ignores the real state. The social dialogue is bad or non-existent, trade unions are politicized, and there are no realistic representations.

The seminar is of crucial importance for the to see the need of solidarity of trade unions, to join with the same objective of realizing the objective that is protection of workers’ rights. We must highlight that UNASM emphasizes the importance for the realization of such seminar that is unselfishly financed by EZA.

Professor Konstantin Petkovski, PhD, St. Cyril and Methodius University: Improvement of the social dialogue can be achieved by implementing structural reforms. It is important that the social partnership includes a social model that changes the mindset. Social issues are of interest of the workers, employers and of the Government and a check and a correction is necessary of the errors made by all stakeholders.

The representative of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy presented the Ministry with a presentation on the following topic: “Strengthening the social dialogue via the legal regulation and mechanisms that are undertaken to get closer to the European Union”.  He also presented a research on the mistrust in trade unions, about which it was asked the purpose of commissioning such a study by the Ministry and what the Ministry will do to improve the situation, to which he answered that the research was conducted by the British Embassy, which means that it is not of the interest of the Ministry and of the social partners.

Slavica Jaukovikj, responsible for the work of branch trade unions within the Union of Trade Unions of Montenegro, talked about the state in Montenegro regarding the reforms that have been introduced and the progress that has been made regarding workers’ rights. 

Marija Martiniкј, manager of the Education and Research Centre within NEZAVISNOST, Serbia, talked about the mode and activities they undertake to strengthen social dialogue in Serbia.

The representative of the Independent Trade Unions of Albania BSPSH, talked about the situation of the trade unions in the Albania and the difficulties the social partners face when it comes to social dialogue.

Emil Krstanovski, national coordination of ILO in the Republic of North Macedonia, said that ILO, as organization this year marks its 100th anniversary of its existence when it was founded in 1919 with the Versailles Treaty under the motto NO PEACE WITHOUT SOCIAL DIALOGUE. ILO represents labour rights and is the only organizations where all social partners have equal importance. He gave an overview about the main challenges for the social dialogue in the Western Balkan region and presented the decent work country program 2019 – 2022 for North Macedonia.

Avni Ajdini, president of BSPK (Independent trade unions of Kosovo), talked about the experiences and practices of Kosovo and stated the role and significance of the improvement of the social dialogue, even though the awareness is only slightly raised and has still not reached a satisfactory level.

Andres Andreev, regional coordinator of PODKREPA, talked about their experiences since Bulgaria is a member state of the European Union. The social dialogue in Bulgaria is adopted according to the EU standards. However, the social partners have still a lot to do because of the low trade union density, the problems caused by the privatization and the lack of possibility of forming trade union organizations in the private sector.

Mile Boshkov, representative of the Business Confederation of North Macedonia (BKM), and Rade Nenadikj, Association of Temporary Employment Agency, discussed the role of the social partners from employers’ perspective. They highlighted the problem with the reduction of staff for which it is known that it is not needed on the labour market, while individual sectors are facing deficit of skilled workforce.

Role of social partners in the process of implementation of structural reforms in the Republic of North Macedonia:

  • Slobodan Trendafilov, Union of Trade Unions of Macedonia (SSM)
  •  Marjan Risteski, president of the Confederation of Trade Union Organizations of Macedonia (KSOM)
  • Divna Zmejkoska, UNASM vice-president

The representatives of trade unions started a discussion about the structural reforms where it was concluded that a restructure is necessary. It is necessary for all structural reforms to be expanded and all stakeholders should take part in them. Divna Zmejkovska highlighted that a very small number of women are put on high functions and in the decision-making bodies of the trade unions, which means that the gender concept has not been taken into consideration. Consequently, there is not enough cooperation between women’s organizations within trade unions.

It was also pointed out that due to lack of implementation of the laws among which the Law on protection of harassment at the workplace, equal opportunities and prohibition from discrimination, the workers are having their rights violated.

Most important conclusions

  • The model of having all trade unions around the table with the employers and with the representatives of the Ministry of Labour and Social Policy should be implemented.
  • Solidarity among the trade unions should be increased.
  • Exchange of information and experiences both on national and international level should be done with understanding and mutual respect
  • Coalition of trade unions when necessary should be established.
  • In the EU accession process with the candidate countries, representatives of trade unions should be included
  • Political instability with short periods of stability were remarked
  • Deficient and inssuficient social dialogue is common in the region.
  • Workers’ organisations have a low visibility in public.
  • There is a lack of information about the functioning
  • andinsufficient expertise about the stances of the Economic and Social Council.
  • The compromise is an abstract notion, especially when it comes to complex issues.
  • There is law participation of trade unions in the Economic and Social Council
  • The Economic and Social Council has a low level of participation in the suggestion of the law projects
  • There is no national mechanism to monitor the implementation of the recommendations.
  • Overemployment in the public sector is existing.
  • Networking of the women’s sections within the trade unions is necessary.
  • The issues of migration on the labor market has to be reviewed.
  • High quality education of professional staff has to be provided because that has been neglected in most of the countries of the region.
  • People should be given the possibility to acquire knowledge and skills so that they can enter the labor market.
  • Digitization and easier handling of these new form of functioning and the challenges it brings should be discussed.