“We want to become stronger”

This was the motto under which some 50 representatives of food, agriculture and tourism trade unions from Central, Eastern and South-East Europe (SEE) came together in Zagreb on 4 and 5 November 2019 – in the build-up to the 5th EFFAT Congress – to discuss the challenges confronting workers in these sectors. “The situation of workers in the Balkan countries is unacceptable,” said Conference President Valentina Vasilionova of the Bulgarian Agricultural Trade Union FNSZ: “Millions of workers are leaving their homes in pursuit of a better life in other countries. We need decent work and fair wages on the ground in order to give people a new perspective in their home country. Europe must give us a better future.”

Spokesman for EFFAT’s regional trade union council, Boris Frajnkovic of the Slovenian KZI, took up these ideas and called on employers in the region to come to the negotiating table and strengthen the social dialogue: “Those who weaken the social dialogue destroy the future viability of jobs, companies and employers in our sectors. Only through a strong social dialogue can stability and progress also become reality for our region”.

This gathering of high-level trade union representatives from across the region agreed on a joint declaration, which both diagnosed the major problems for workers in SEE and proposed solutions to improve the situation.

Of particular note, the conference made clear its objective to ensure that, in the face of a rapidly-changing world of work, member unions become more representative of today’s more diverse workforce, with more young and women members at all levels of their organisations, better able to secure through collective bargaining the interests of all workers and progressive social change.

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