On 14 November 2019 the BWI European Regional Committee (ERC) took place in Chisinau, Moldova. Over 100 trade union leaders from the region met to discuss progress in the implementation of the European regional action plan. The main topic of discussion at the ERC was climate change and trade union strategies to fight this challenge including just transition.
The ERC took place in a turbulent time for the people of Moldova, as the government was forced to resign, and the new government was not formed. In a meeting with the BWI leadership Moldovan President Igor Dodon, expressed full support to the national trade unions in their demands of full compliance with the international labour standards in Moldova.
On behalf of the host unions of Moldova---Sindicons, Sindenergo and Sindsilva---Victor Talmach, Sindicons president, welcomed the ERC members, observers and guests at the meeting. The president of the national trade union confederation CSNM Oleg Budza, who was Sindicons president for 17 years, also greeted participants and indicated that the trade union movement of Moldova was very proud that Chisinau was able to host the ERC.
In his opening remarks, BWI president Per Olof Sjoo stressed the need to not leave rural communities behind. He stated, “Today, rural communities are faced with scarcity of private sector investment, high unemployment, and lack of quality public services. And it is the rural communities where you will find workers the forest sector. As trade unions, we should of course push for sustainable urbanization, but it cannot come at the cost of rural communities. Trade unions must also speak for workers in the rural areas to ensure that they have decent jobs, living wages, and a sustainable future.
BWI general secretary Ambet Yuson called on the ERC to address the rise of right-wing, xenophobic, nationalist political parties that are anti-migrant, anti-women, and anti-worker. He stated, “We need to build union power through organizing. However, we don’t stop organizing when we have recruited workers into trade unions. We need to continue to organize workers to mobilize on the streets and in the worksites. We need to organize to educate workers about the impact of their policies not only nationally but globally.”
With climate change as the main issue for the meeting, Jurgen Maier, CEO NGO Forum and Axel Schubert, urban planner and climate activists, talked about just transition, the global climate movement and the need for the new global climate deal. The speakers stressed the necessity to take immediate action to stop climate change and save the planet. The BWI ERC members acknowledged that trade unions have an important role to play in the global fight against climate change and need to develop a clear strategy for a road map of action.
“It is clear that neo-liberal politicians and capital would resist to civil society initiatives to stop climate change. We need to join all efforts, build coalitions and have a broad campaign. We can perhaps use BWI’s famous red card campaign for climate change,” said Johan Lindholm, President of the BWI European Regional Committee.
The ERC addressed a number of issues including the implementation of the BWI European Regional Action Plan. One area that was highlighted was the wages based on the findings of a report entitled, “Mapping Effectiveness of Wage Policies in the Construction and Building Materials Sectors” that was presented at the meeting. The report found that wages in Georgia, Moldova, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan are unacceptably low and that only trade unions could change such situation. The proposal to launch sub-regional campaign for decent wages by BWI affiliates from Eastern Europe and Central Asia was adopted by the ERC.
The ERC also supported Moldovan trade unions demand to the new in-coming government to ensure compliance of labour inspection practices with the ILO Conventions.
In his first official ERC meeting after being appointed as Regional Representative, Coen van der Veer stated, “Today Europe is more diverse. In the past we saw diversity as positive but now with diversity in wages, environmental and living condition, and serious gap between Eastern Europe and Western Europe, we face challenges. I am very proud that trade unions in Europe are ready to stand up together and fights these challenges.”