Central and Eastern European Network Meeting 2020


On 30 November 2020, ETUCE Central and Eastern European Network (CEENET) gathered virtually to discuss pressing challenges that education systems, teachers, and trade unions face.  Welcoming the members of the Network, Christine Blower, ETUCE former President, highlighted the difficult time teachers, other education personnel and education services were going through at the moment, in the complex context of the COVID-19 pandemic. In her opening speech Susan Flocken, ETUCE European Director, reflected on the recent positive developments in relation to COVID-19 vaccines and emphasized the importance for teachers and other education personnel to have access to them rapidly.

Georgiy Trukhanov, TUESW, Ukraine, provided an overview of the situation in Ukraine. He referred to the numerous ministerial changes done in the past 1,5 years hampering social dialogue. “Last February, two draft laws were introduced in the Ukrainian Parliament, on labour, trade unions, social insurance and social dialogue. These infringed on the rights of employees and on the freedoms of trade unions. Over the past year, many protests were held all around the country and supported by international organisations. The key issue is a lack of trust between the government and the social partners. Trade unions are now asking the adoptions of these laws to be postponed and the opening of social dialogue”, explained TUESW President.

Representatives from, ITUPEWBH, Bosnia and Herzegovina pointed out that many challenges emerged due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “As online teaching is becoming the norm due to the spread of COVID-19, it is affecting entire education systems. Teachers lack digital hardware and software equipment while students do not have adequate conditions for working from home. In families with multiple children, it is very difficult for parents to provide each child with a laptop and a space to follow the classes. There is also an important gender dimension to be taken into account as a large majority of teachers are women”, commented ITUPEWBH.

Juraj Stodolovsky, OZ PŠaV, Slovakia talked about young members and the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has on them, including OZ PŠaV’s work. “The growing individualisation in society is widespread among young people in Europe, significantly raising the importance of the values of solidarity and common work that trade unions stand up for. The COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing economic crisis has disproportionately impacted youth”, he stressed.

Invited speaker , Marta Kahancová, Founder and Managing Director of Central European Labour Studies Institute, presented the research on “Mapping Studies of Trade Unions and Professional Associations as Civil Society Actors Working on the Issues of Labour Rights and Social Dialogue in six Eastern Partnership Countries”. The aim of this research was to identify the actors in labour rights and their strengths and weaknesses. It distinguished between trade unions, professional associations and civil society organisations. The desk research was followed by in person interviews from six countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. “The recognition of trade unions and their structures varied from one country to another. In Azerbaijan and Moldova, there is a single confederation and non-union actors are not developed. In Armenia, there is a single confederation and other civil society organisations have a potential to become major policy actors. Trade unions are generally the oldest and most structured organisations, with the broadest policy reach. Yet, they lack organisational support and flexibility”.

In the follow-up of the meeting, CEENET members are invited to identify in a survey further topics for the CEE Round Table on 7-8 July 2021 in Liège, Belgium.