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Macedonian Opposition Accuses Unions of Passivity

May 1, 2012

On International labour day, a senior opposition Social Democrat accused the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia, SSM, of failing to stand up for workers’ rights – a charge that the SSM disputes.

Sinisa Jakov Marusic, Balkan Insight, 01.05.2012

 

Workers in Skopje | Photo by: Balkan Insight

A leading figure in Macedonia’s main opposition party has accused the country’s trade union federation, the SSM, of being docile to the centre-right government of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski, which the party says has drastically curbed workers’ rights.

The accusation came on International Labour Day, which the Macedonian federation of unions marked with a press conference and feasts.

Last November, the government cut state aid for sacked workers who are close to retirement, granting them only 18 months of help instead of five years. Only three unions staged protests and the SSM leadership remained silent.

“This clearly shows that the unions are under heavy government influence,” SDP legislator Cvetanka Ivanova, who is also head of the parliamentary commission on labour, said.

The SSM remained silent about last year’s tightening of the rules on sick leave and is so far ignoring announced changes in the pension law that cut employers’ contributions to  workers’ pension funds, she noted.

Zivko Mitrevski, head of federation that has more than 100,000 members, denied the charges of passivity as “nonsense” and insists the union has been successful in bargaining for workers’ rights.

“There is no reason for protests. We see a social partner in this and every other government and will continue negotiating,” he said.

Last year’s deal on the minimum wage was regarded by the SSM and the government alike as an achievement. Under the deal, workers may not earn less than 130 euros a month.

Macedonia remains troubled by major social and economic problems, with over 30 per cent of the population unemployed. About the same percentage of people are considered to be living in poverty.

Latest statistical data show that some 80 per cent of Macedonian workers earn no more than 200 euro a month, at a time when many prices in the last three years have risen sharply or even doubled.

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