9 July 2014 – The ITF will work with railway unions in former Soviet countries to promote solidarity and campaigns following a historic meeting in Kazakhstan.
Twenty-six delegates from ten countries representing unions of the International Trade Union Confederation of Railway Workers and Transport Builders (ITUCRWTB – the umbrella body for unions in former Soviet nations) and ITF affiliates attended the seminar on 1-3 July in Astana with support from the International Labour Organization’s Moscow office. This was the first time that the ITF had met with rail unions from the majority of Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and Baltic states.
How unions promote health and safety on railways against a backdrop of increasing casualisation and decreasing membership was a key topic. On average, countries in the region have seen a 32 percent reduction in membership. Delegates agreed that implementing ILO labour standards and promoting the labour inspectorate are essential in the fight for health and safety.
Delegates discussed the effects of rail fragmentation in Russia and attempts to privatise the system in Kyrgyzstan. Georgian railway workers shared their experience of taking strike action for improved conditions. The European Transport Workers’ Federation (ETF) campaign against the fourth railway package was covered, as the European Union can set precedent for global restructuring programmes.
Participants stressed that engaging young and women railway workers and building wider alliances are key to building union strength during challenging times.
ITF inland transport secretary Mac Urata said: “ITF welcomes the proposals from the ITUCRWTB to take part in the ITF road and rail action week in October, and in international solidarity actions. We are also planning potential joint research, education programmes, and training.
Unions across the region are facing a variety of challenges we see reflected on a global scale. This meeting was the first step to develop a long-term working relationship to fight-back against globalization and casualisation.