Interview with Zivko Mitrevski, president of CCM

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For MIA – Macedonian information agency,   10 January 2013

Живко Митревски, претседател на ССМ

Past year will be remembered as one of the most difficult in terms of the consequences caused by the global economic crisis. Is the trade union satisfied with the actions taken to protect workers and save their jobs?

- The fact is that the economic crisis has not passed Republic of Macedonia, but the fact is also that as the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia had clearly built positions on several issues. We had a clear strategy to continue institutional actions and to develop the established social dialogue. This approach was thought necessary and instead of irrationally "regretting" for the conditions, we approached to specifically address the situation with concrete solutions. By the way, in the period of worst crisis we did not allowed mass layoffs, reduced pay, nor increase of the retirement limit. Those were the three pillars around which we built our activities, but also around understanding of the social partners. In times of crisis we signed the validity extension of the General Collective Agreement for economy on June 26 with the Organization of Employers of Macedonia and without reducing any labor rights. These were the two key activities key if we make an analysis of what was happening in our surrounding and also in Europe, so we can conclude that the strategy of the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia gave results that were recognized by all relevant international trade union entities for the manner of dealing with the crisis.

In such conditions, we continued with our approach of building the institutional networking of the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia, raising the level of International labor standards, harmonization of labor legislation with the EU, as well as strengthening of the social dialogue on local level. Since the independence of Republic of Macedonia until 2012 were ratified only four ILO conventions, and in one year we succeed to ratify additional five of which several are fundamental, such as the Convention on the promotional framework for OHS (ratified on 19.03.2012), the Convention on Maternity Protection (03.19.2012), the Convention on Private Employment Agencies and the Convention to perform work at home. If we take into account that the proposals were adopted of the Economic and Social Council session of October 2012 for ratification of the three additional conventions (Public Administration C150 and 151, and the Collective Bargaining Convention 154) it is a really significant step forward in terms of deploying workers international standards, that was recognized by the ILO.

img2_100813562We initiated amendments of the Labor Law that were accepted, which drastically improves the position and the elimination of discrimination against women, pregnant women, young people and other vulnerable groups.

In times of crisis, for the first time in the history of the labor movement on 9 October was signed the Collective Agreement on Energy by our branch trade union (SSESM) and the newly formed Association of Employers of Energy, trade union collective agreements were signed and renewed in AGRO trade union, textiles trade union (STKC), Macedonian police trade union etc. That means that even in terms of crisis the process of collective bargaining continues without reducing workers' rights. On the contrary in the signed collective agreements not only there is no reduce of workers' rights, but we also for the first time defined a special position and protection for certain categories of workers such as seasonal workers.

We continued with the creation of local social dialogue and we were participants in the signing and creating of three local economic and social councils of which the lasts in Tetovo and Stip.

At the beginning of the year, after 10 years of trade union struggle we provided better positions to fulfill the retirement right for miners in underground mines.

During the year, we continued our strategic partnership with the Federation of Associations of Retirees of Macedonia and we signed a Memorandum of cooperation. With other trade unions we continue to jointly approach and we are open for the process of association as a possible future option. We had rich educational activities, for the first time we opened a School for young trade union leaders that is active all year, we have participated in a number of projects with the European Union, we visited enterprises and we were present wherever needed.

I think this year we had an intense dynamics that was not observed never before, but it was necessary. The results were obvious no matter that we were often exposed to non-argumented and not always well-intentioned criticism. Previously mentioned facts and arguments confirm these theses, and for all these activities, particularly in the legal sphere and the improvement, we are preparing a Brochure.

On the Trade Union passed the Minimum Wage Law, for the first time since independence. Are you satisfied with its application so far?

- The adoption of this Law is of great importance for the labor movement, and I would say a historic victory, no matter that there are people who want to deny this act. For a period of one year it showed positive effects and justification. Today in Macedonia all people know that we have a minimum wage, that it is legal obligation and financial liability, and that avoiding of its payment represents grounds for correction, that it is the basis for a series of fiscal calculations for all, even for foreign investors. Latest researches and surveys conducted by the Organisation of Employers of Macedonia showed that as we expected as social partners, the minimum wage is paid in full amount, even in the most vulnerable sectors. We have proven and shown by arguments that the adoption of this law in terms of terrible crisis is brave, responsible and historic act. There are elements that can be improved, but the social partners will certainly bear them in mind.


As a trade union you prepare trade union consumption basket that reflects the actual costs of a family of four. What the monthly needs of workers, according to the trade union consumption basket?


- After the arrival of the new leadership in the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia on 18 Congress in October 2010, we took series of steps and actions that we started to apply for the first time. One of them is creation of the so called minimal trade union consumption basket for family of 4. It is a complex of costs which currently totals over 32.000 MKD. This basket is the conscience of the social justice that should be pursued by the state and the social partners. It should be a roadmap towards we have to strive and fight for it to be realistic and enforceable.

The Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia is the only place that opened office for the victims of mobbing. What are the results of its work to date and how many workers are exposed to mobbing?

- Surveys conducted by the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia and the Financial Workers' Union of Macedonia (SFDM) showed that 48% of respondents are suffering from mobbing. It was very concerning result, and if we bear in mind that in the existing regulation there was only one article of in the Labor law dedicated to this issue, we initiated campaign in May for adoption of a new law to ban the psychological harassment or mobbing. Simultaneously we opened anti-mobbing office that offered services on regular basis. The campaign launched in May and the work of the office we raised the awareness for this issue, we provided direct legal, psychological and other care and on a mutual satisfaction we expect the law to pass next year for the first time in the history of Macedonia, after completion of the work of the working groups established by the Economic and Social Council that reviewed the text offered by the Federation of Trade Unions Macedonia. During the year we had over 150 cases where our members have received professional help and services.

On several occasions, by various associations, the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia was called to take a stand on certain issues related to rise of prices. Did the trade union remained true to their policy in those moments?

- Despite the fact that some associations called us to take a certain position on rises of prices I responsibly claim that the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia was the first in Republic of Macedonia's first that came up with standpoints about rises and the work of the Regulation Commission. It was public and transparent meeting held on 1 February 2012. We clearly declared that our strategic commitment is living and social standard. Our attitudes were expressed far earlier before AMAN’s and "Izgor privatizacija". Even then we were discussing about cheap tariffs. All these associations expressed their opinions quite later than us. Our views were published on 7 and 21 August, and on August 31 was published our platform for rising energy prices. I said then, and I repeat it now that the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia maintains at its authentic trade union policy built on the standpoints of the 18 branch unions affiliated in the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia. We publicly refused and rejected various roll calls and attempts to be thrust into political scenarios and intrigues. On the 18 Congress we reaffirmed our independent position that is not connected with any political party. Hence the times are over when SSM was often part of supporting political parties and actions, often without built consensus or manifested by one man. That should be clear to the political structures, and for that in the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia we have consensus. Concerning CCM’s contribution, which is sadly forgotten, is the realization of our demands and expanding and increasing of the amount of energy poverty compensation.

Concerning legal aid that CCM provide for their members – are there any changes in the number of cases and in the subjects of the addresses of the workers?


- It Is a fact that the number of complaints and the number of cases declined. In the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia we make general analysis of these issues twice a year, and trade union offices of the cities across Macedonia prepare monthly reports. Preventive action, records of membership, the adoption of the Law on minimum wage and changes in Labor Law contributed the number of cases to reduce. Trade Union consciousness, its existence, the ratification of the set of fundamental conventions contributed the cases to decrease of the 227 in 2011 to 161 in 2012. Otherwise, last year we had a total of 2789 addresses, 1551 for legal advice, 112 complaints, 181 claims and 156 hearings. In the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia we have well organized free legal aid, so through it, and through negotiation with employers, we strive to protect our members, but also to improve their negotiation position.

What will be the priorities in 2013 for you as President of the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia?

- Priorities arise from our program guidelines, but certainly the top priorities will be signing of the collective agreements, proving of representativeness which should happen in 2013, resolving of the status of employees of loss-making companies, the adoption of the Law against mobbing and certainly, signing of the Collective Agreement for the public sector.

Biljana Anastasova - Kostic

ILO Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities - EU FRIEDRICH EBERT STIFTUNG Организацијa на работодавачи на Македонија etuc