Balkan trade unionists come together for workers’ rights and reconciliation

The Balkans are still recovering from the scars of war, as those who have had a chance to visit that beautiful region well know. The material signs of the conflict are still there to remind us how dreadful it was. It is no secret that at the political and grassroots levels there is still friction among different ethnic groups, and the path towards complete reconciliation is still long and arduous. However, there are encouraging signs from the world of work, more specifically from the world of trade unions, combative people by definition!

From 23 to 27 June, thirty representatives of branch trade unions from Croatia, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia operating in the energy, chemical, agricultural, food and catering sectors met in Turin to take stock of their organizations’ objectives and to learn how to improve their action and thus foster workers’ rights and decent work in their respective countries.

"During the course, we analysed the relations between national trade union federations and sectoral unions. We studied how to improve their efficiency, sustainability, internal democracy, financial management and human resource management," said the course manager, Ms Evelyin Toth. "Leadership skills, strategies, motivation, team building, communication and awareness-raising were also on the course agenda. We mixed theory with practice, in particular by comparing the Italian, Dutch and German models: all strong trade unions, yet with different approaches."

She added, "The point is that when it comes to workers’ rights, this transcends national, political and cultural barriers. The workers’ welfare, as well as that of their families, is considered by trade unions to be an imperative. That is why concepts such as peace and brotherhood are always at the forefront of each trade union’s statutes, all over the world."

"Do you mean that workers are, in general, one step ahead in terms of peace building?" we ask. "Without a shadow of a doubt!" is the answer, along with a confident smile. Another lesson learned, today, at the ILO Training Centre.

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