Full ratification of the European Social Charter is our demand...

08 січня 2024, 11:46
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Full ratification of the European Social Charter is our demand...

...and a condition for Ukraine's membership in the EU, - Grygorii Osovyi

The full-scale war has brought about changes not only within the country. It has significantly changed the work of our representatives at the international level. The Federation of Trade Unions of Ukraine is no exception. We'll talk more about this with Grygorii Osovyi, the head of the FPU.

Grygorii Vasylovych, how has the position of the FPU at the international level changed during the war?

It changed quite a lot. If before, at the international level, we were mainly concerned with gaining experience in trade union activities and human rights work in the field of labour, then with the outbreak of a full-scale war, the main thing was to lobby the international trade union movement and the public of various countries to support Ukraine in its confrontation with the Russian aggressor. In other words, we used the opportunities available to us to use trade union diplomacy.

The FPU has consultative status with the UN Commission for Social Development and has long been a member organisation of the world-famous International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), which operates in 165 countries and has more than 200 million trade union members. In October 2002, even before Ukraine was granted EU candidate status, the trade union confederation was admitted to the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), which is the only partner organisation of the EU institutions and operates in 42 countries on the continent. 

At the same time, 24 all-Ukrainian trade unions that are members of the FPU are affiliated to global trade unions. This gives us great opportunities to represent Ukraine internationally through these institutions. These, in turn, are active at the level of the United Nations, the International Labour Organisation, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Organisation for Economic and Social Development, and have appropriate representation or accreditation at the G-7, G-20 summits, etc. 

Incidentally, at the end of February we will be part of the ITUC delegation to the annual meeting of trade unions with the IMF and the World Bank to discuss the future of the labour sector, investment in jobs and human capital. Let me remind you that these are the financial institutions that lend to Ukraine. And finally, all this gives us the opportunity to tell them the truth about the situation in the country, about Russia's military aggression, about how we are defending our sovereignty, our freedom and our right to democratically choose independence.

 

Are most countries on our side, supporting Ukraine in its struggle?

The majority are. But not all of them. There are some, for example trade unions from African and Latin American countries, who do not have an objective view of what is happening in Ukraine. As a result, they do not have the political will to condemn russian aggression. This is not because the official position of trade unionists in these countries has already been formed. The fact is that some of the leaders once studied in Moscow and live under illusions and memories. Another part has certain ideological convictions. Their logic is as follows: if the United States (which they see as an empire) is helping Ukraine, then we are supposedly under the influence of this imperialism. russia is also seen as an empire, so they do not support it either. And against the background of these two counterbalances, they are manoeuvring without taking a clear position on condemning russia's armed aggression.

This cannot but be worrying...

Of course it is. And we present our resolutions at every international platform where possible, initiate public actions and rallies in solidarity with Ukraine, as we did during the Labour Conference in Geneva. Because of our principled position, the federation of independent trade unions of russia (which supported putin in the war) was expelled from the ITUC. Of course, in this direction we are working primarily with unions from countries closer to us in terms of understanding and support. These are mainly the Nordic countries of Europe - Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Norway and Belgium. And, of course, the Baltic states and Poland - we have a common vision of russian aggression. We are now trying to involve Slovakia. We have the support of the Swiss, French and Italian trade unions. We have excellent relations with the federations of these countries, which make up the whole trade union movement there. Each of them has its own ideological messages and interaction with political parties.

By the way, in 2022 the Italians really wanted to hold a conference in Ukraine on how to secure peace. Unfortunately, we had to cancel it. At the time, there were no real grounds for it to be effective in terms of Ukraine's demands: complete withdrawal of troops from our territory, return of the damage caused, security guarantees, etc. And with the enemy's troops on Ukrainian territory, there is little or no prospect of peace negotiations.

Of course, we are paying special attention to developing cooperation with trade unions in the United States and the United Kingdom, whose governments are providing Ukraine with unprecedented military, financial and humanitarian aid. In June, Mykhailo Volynets, who heads the KVPU, and I were in Philadelphia at the The American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), where US President Joe Biden gave a brilliant speech in support of trade unions and Ukraine. And our appearance on stage, showing a video of the russians' terrorist actions in Irpin, Bucha and Mariupol, provoked unanimous condemnation of russian aggression and support for Ukraine. Although there were delegates from some states who still had doubts. We did something similar at the Trades Union Congress UK last year.

And you do outreach in such places, explaining why it is necessary to increase pressure on the aggressor?

Yes, we do.  The good thing is that where there is a strong trade union movement, it is backed up by political forces. Because unions are voters. In the Scandinavian countries, for example, 85 to 90 per cent of all workers are members of trade unions, which protect them through collective agreements. And they all vote. This means that both MEPs and officials in the relevant European institutions are guided by the opinions of these people. Incidentally, the European Parliament elections will be held in May this year. And the fight for the votes of the voters, the same trade union members, is very important.

I recently took part in a conference in Brussels at the European Parliament organised by progressive socialists and social democrats on how to ensure a social Europe in the future. I gave a speech on reforms in Ukraine, because according to the Constitution we are also a welfare state. This is the second largest group in the European Parliament, which is very supportive of the trade union movement. If you look at the formula of Europe, progressive politicians and socialists always mean "social Europe", a social market economy. And there is a place for the trade union movement, its role and power and its participation in the management of companies. These politicians are worried about the growth of the radical right in Europe, which could harm workers' rights and lead to a reduction in their social guarantees.

Do we have something similar in Ukraine now?

Yes, there is. We have to give an honest answer to the citizens of Ukraine about what kind of country we are building. Compared to what the Europeans say and prescribe in their resolutions, you will not find the words "social market economy" in the documents of the Ukrainian parliament or government.  There is only "market", and "social" has been dropped. And it's not just the vocabulary - a lot of practical things have been dropped along with the word 'social'. If something is acceptable during martial law, it can become a brake on our European integration in the future.

For example?

Look, we ratified the European Social Charter in 2017. And this is thanks to the powerful strength and influence of the FPU, which has chosen the European Choice programme as its course. This is a very strong implementation of European legislation. In particular, the EU Directives and the European Social Charter contain Article 1(4), which defines what the minimum subsistence level, minimum wage, state-guaranteed pension, etc. should be. As a standard for countries that are members of the European Community. It must meet the needs of a person to buy food, clothing and other essential goods, and include the costs of medical treatment and housing. This means that Ukraine should take into account all these indicators. In fact, our law on the minimum subsistence level only includes food and some components of daily life. And paid services, such as health care and housing, are not included at all - only utility bills. But this is relevant for those who have a home. And who doesn't? The state does not care whether a person can buy it or at least rent it with their earned income.

The sooner Ukraine implements the legislation and brings its own guarantees closer to EU standards, the sooner the dignity of representing our country in this community will be perceived. Full ratification of the European Social Charter is our demand and a condition for EU membership. This means that we must apply the social component of this policy in all aspects: salaries, pensions and social guarantees must comply with this formula.

During the negotiations we will also talk about the European social security system. Based on the experience of other countries, we have created a system of such guarantees in Ukraine. Of course, during the war, during martial law, they were significantly "cut". The state liquidated the relevant fund, and the only guarantees left were for pension insurance. The system was destroyed, and not because of the war. It is due to the lack of understanding of the problem by certain officials. It is simply unacceptable to humiliate a working man's guarantees in this way.

That is why in 2024 our team, under the auspices of the European trade unions, must learn how to work during the negotiation process on Ukraine's accession to the EU. And secondly, this form of participation should be guaranteed for trade unions.

If we create motivating working conditions for Ukrainians, we will set a precedent for the return of our emigrants who went abroad for various reasons - either because of the war, unemployment, and disagreement with politics or living conditions. We have more than 8 million of these people. Given Ukraine's manpower needs, we need to bring Ukrainians back not with appeals, but with practical things.

It is said that the international community has gone cold on Ukraine in the wake of the war in Israel?

That is true. But we are trying to revive interest in Ukraine on various platforms. Recently I signed a letter to the ITUC General Secretary and the ETUC General Secretary proposing to hold an international videoconference on 24 February, the anniversary of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine. This is a kind of renewed focus on Ukraine. It means further political, financial, military and humanitarian support. It also means support for the trade unions themselves, so that we can stay and continue to fulfil our representative and social function. Finally, we also need support to resist anti-social and anti-worker proposals that may appear in parliament or the government.

I understand that, as head of the FPU, you are also an ITUC Vice-President, a member of the ITUC General Council and a member of the ITUC Executive Board?

Yes, I am. I am also a member of the ITUC Executive Bureau and the ETUC Executive Committee. I don't say this to boast, because 10 years ago my colleagues couldn't even dream of such respect and trust in Ukrainian trade unions. This is a very high recognition, considering the number of member countries that are part of these organisations. It probably also takes into account the fact that the FPU is the largest trade union in Ukraine and that the FPU leader is also the chairman of the Joint Representative Body of representative trade unions at national level and co-chairman of the National Tripartite Social and Economic Council on the trade union side. So this is an opportunity to inform colleagues about the situation of the trade union movement in Ukraine, the observance of workers' rights, and sometimes to ask directly for some support, etc.

Can this be put into practice?

Yes, for example, we have raised UAH 160 million through various donor programmes to help people and the trade unions themselves. As for Ukraine as a whole, we want to restore social dialogue in the country, as it is practised in the EU. The high-level missions that have visited us do not understand why there is such an attitude to social dialogue as a form of interaction and finding common goals, solving problems and consolidation. This is the norm in Europe. They do not understand why some officials do not accept it and resist it. 

So it happened that while participating in trade union events in Brussels, where the ITUC and ETUC offices are located, I met several times with the European Commissioner for Employment and Social Policy, Nicolas Schmidt, who said that he was planning to visit Ukraine soon and would undoubtedly emphasise the importance of social dialogue during the meetings. It is clear that the ETUC has already used various instruments in this regard: it has contacted the President of the European Commission, informed the Council of Europe and sent letters to Ukrainian officials. By the way, European employers and trade unions propose to hold a summit of social partners in Kyiv on the eve of the EU-Ukraine summit. In Europe there is a rule that every six months representatives of the European Commission, the Council of Europe, European Commissioners and trade unions come to the people to report on their work and announce plans for the future. If we were to introduce such a format in Ukraine, people would understand what government, business and trade unions are doing for each of them.

The FPU Council met recently, what are the top priorities for this year?

Among the top priorities is the one related to shifting our organisational, financial and resource potential from IDPs to helping the military and war-affected people who are returning to their reserved jobs or being employed.

We understand that demobilisation is now mainly among people with certain physical injuries, so we need to help them and their employers in the companies to which they will return.

As the owner of a spa, recreation and rehabilitation complex, we have decided to use it for this category of people. But this requires a synergy of efforts - from the government, trade unions and business. And, of course, the international community, where it would be possible to raise the funds that our country so desperately needs. So far, we have not seen any systematic work and feedback, so we are doing it on our own, within our means. As a result, around 9,000 soldiers have been treated in our facilities. This includes psychological rehabilitation, recreation, and simply spending time with their families. Simple things that give our soldiers the strength and ability to take up arms again and defend the country. We have made this work a priority. The internal homework we discussed was the modernisation of the trade union movement and the FEU itself. After all, we are still far behind the European organisations, we still have many remnants of the former administrative and command system. Let's start with ourselves. My dream is to create a European federation, to bring the FPU into line with the rules and regulations that apply in European communities. Where there is transparency, democracy, mutual respect and codes of integrity. The European statutes contain very simple and direct rules of procedure. In our country, unfortunately, it is still possible to "talk up" any decision and fail.

Now we are already part of the line that works not only on national legislation but also on EU directives. We have to understand these directives very well, know and decipher them and add our own.

In order to transpose all this into national legislation in a sensible way.  I admit it is not easy. We have been doing this for more than six months. But if we don't propose a transformation model now, we could be in the same state for another five years. And if we do everything right, we will get new wings to feel confident in the European space.

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РОЗДІЛ: Новости мира
ТЕГИ: ФПУ,профспілки
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