Friday, February 28, 2014


The WOW delegation on the road from Lomé to Accra.
At the meeting of the World Board last year, Vice President Koffi Zounnadjala invited the World Board to visit Africa. It was a long time ago that members of the World Board had visited the continent. In February, the time had come. On Tuesday, February 18th, a delegation consisting of WOW President Roel Rotshuizen, Executive Secretary Bjorn van Heusden and World Board Member Piet Nelissen left to Accra the capital of Ghana. In collaboration with the Pan African Federation of Employees PFE a tight schedule was drawn up of visits, talks and meetings in as many as three countries: Ghana, Togo and Benin.

The day after our arrival at Accra, Ghana we were received by Beatrice Frimpong (on the right), Secretary General of the Ghana Hairdressers and Beauticians Association, and some apprentice hairdressers. The Association is affiliated to the Pan African Federation of Employees. Behind Beatrice you see WOW World President Roel Rotshuizen. After the informal gathering we drove inmediately to Lomé, Togo which is a four hour drive followed by the necessary formalities at the border. We would come back to Ghana on saturday evening so we could be present at the manifestation on sunday where some 80 apprentices will receive their diplomas.

On the border of Ghana and Togo we were received by Koffi Zounnadjala, Vice President of the WOW World Board, Secretary General of the PFE and the National Federation of Employees FENET, affiliated to the Togolese confederation CSTT.

On our arrival in Lomé, the capital of Togo, we were welcomed by about  hundred members of the General Assembly of FENET at the roof top meeting room of the CSTT office. We felt immediately at home. 

After the meeting we spoke with  Secretary General Ayikoué Tevi (left) of the CSTT in his office. Next to him sits WOW World President Roel Rotshuizen, followed by Bjorn van Heusden, Executive secretary of WOW. On the right Koffi Zounnadjala, WOW Vice-President, Secretary General of the Pan African Federation of Employees (PFE) and Secretary general of the National Federation of Employees FENET.

An informal chat with members of the Union of security guards affiliated to FENET.

The next day we had a meeting with the Executive Committee of the FENET in the combined office of the PFE and FENET.

WOW President Roel Rotshuizen and PFE Secretary General Koffi Zounnadjala photographed at the office of Koffi.

There was a lot of interest of the press and even the national TV for the press conference that was given after the meeting with the Executive Board of FENET.

Special questions for the WOW President. In the afternoon we left Lomé for another long drive to Cotonou, the capital of Benin.

Our first meeting the next day was with Uzziel Twagilimana, Project Technical Adviser of CNV Internationaal and World Solidarity, in his office in Cotonou.

In the building the  "Bourse de Travail"  in the centre of Cotonou we spoke with Pascal Todjinou (between Koffi and Roel), Secretary General of the confederation CGTB. Pascal told us about the strike of teachers since december last year. Social tensions in Benin are rising because the government rejects to start a social dialogue with the trade unions. The trade unions fear for more repression in the future.

In the same building we were received in the office of Noël Chadare (behind his desk), Secretary General of the Benin confederation COSI.

After this meeting we had a meeting with the board members of the Trade Union Federation of Employees of Benin with President Amavi Dégué in the private sector of COSI together with the president of COSI.

We had decided to drive back to Lomé by daylight. The roadworks made driving in the evening to Lomé very difficult and sometimes even dangerous. Our passports were checked once again by police officers at the border of Benin towards Togo. Although in Ghana, Togo and Benin a lot of people speak the same native language Ewe, the border control between these countries is severe with a lot of paper, stamps and signatures.

Saturday, after having had some rest in Lomé, we drove back to Accra. On sunday morning we  had together a working session in the restaurant of our hotel.

After enjoying a lunch in the house of Secretary General Beatrice Frimpong we went in the afternoon to the manifestation of the Ghana Hairdressers and Beauticians Association organized for the students who had succeeded for the diploma of hairdresser. The students presented themselves to the public consisting of family and friends, by way of a common dance.

The Board Members of the Ghana Hairdressers and Beauticians Association presented themselves also by way of a dance together with some guests of FENET from Lomé . It was a very cheerful and colorful happening full of hope for the future.

Of course WOW President Roel Rotshuizen together with Vice President Koffi Zounnadjala were invited to speak also some words during the manifestation.

Late Sunday evening we flew back home.

Monday, February 17, 2014


The seminar participants visited the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Serbia in the city of Belgrade, the capital of Serbia.

The core bussiness of trade unions is to protect workers on their workplace : about regular and irregular working hours, appropriate wages, holidays, health and safety conditions and a lot more. The best instrument to achieve decent labour conditions is the “collective labour agreement” (CLA). The CLA is a legal binding contract negotiated between one or more trade unions and the company where the workers have their job and who are represented by their unions. There are also CLA's on branche level that cover all the workers in the same branche, like for example in the textile industry or in the wood and construction sector. In this way solidarity between workers in the same company is extended to the workers in the same branche. There are also CLA's on national level, which means it applies to all workers in one country.

Executive Secretary Bjorn van Heusden listens to an intervention of Minka Residbegovic from Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The CLA was the central theme of the seminar organized by WOW in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, from 12 – 14 February, with the support of  the Serbian trade union BOFOS, EZA and the European Commission. The question is why in some European countries most CLA's are on company level and in other countries the CLA 's on branche level prevail. In many countries in Central and Eastern Europe the branche-level CLA does not exist. Are laws and regulations preventing branch level CLA's to be established as legal binding contracts or are there other reasons?

During the seminar it became clear that there are few branch-level CLA's in most Central and Eastern European countries because the employers are not organized. Without a representation of the employers in their own sector it is impossible to come to a branch-level CLA. In many countries it is even difficult to realise a company-level CLA. That is also the reason why the Social Dialogue in most countries does not work well. Without proper instruments to convert agreements into practical policies on the different levels, the Social Dialogue remains a theoretical exercise.

From left to right: President Mara Erdelj of BOFOS in Serbia, Vice-President Vladislav Jevtovic of BOFOS and Stanica Sarcanski of BOFOS. 

On the other hand, countries like Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark and Malta have a well developed Social Dialogue because they have the instruments to implement the Social Dialogue on practical level, that is to say on company, sector or national level. Both employers organizations and trade unions have a positive attitude towards the Social Dialogue and the CLA's. For example CLA's on branche level guarantee that competition on wage level is excluded. Employers have to compete on other levels like for example productivity and new investments.

From left to right: Adalbert Ewen, president of the German trade union CGM, Jesper Wengel, director of KRIFA and KRIFA President Soren Fibiger Olesen.

During the seminar the participants were confronted with quite the opposite in some countries. For example in Serbia the employees of the French Credit Agricole Bank are forced to sign a letter in which they declare not to become a member of a trade union. The management does not even take the trouble to answer letters of protest and declines any request from BOFOSS, the Serbian Trade Union for the banking sector, to have a meeting. It is obvious that Credit Agricole does not want to come to a company-level CLA. No dialogue with the workers through a trade union. This is the more remarkable because in France, where the head office of Crédit Agricole is established, the Social Dialogue and the CLA are very normal.

Mikus Bozo (on the right) and Miroslav Cukovic of the Oil Industries Trade Union SING in Croatia.

It is obvious that in such circumstances the creation of a CLA on branch level is also impossible unless the government starts to put pressure on the management of the bank. Until now the Serbian Government has not taken any initiative into that direction. It seems that the Serbian Government wants a free market with minimal state intervention, what we call these days a neo-liberal state.

The seminar made clear that regarding the Social Dialogue there is a gap between the West European countries and the countries of Central and East Europe. Thanks to a well developed Social Dialogue in West European countries, trade unions have the possibility to cooperate with employers in looking for solutions which benefit both the employees and the employers. Bargaining between trade unions and employers on company and branch level are no longer small scale 'class struggles' . This does not mean that there are no clashes between the two social partners from time to time. But both sides understand that a compromise has to be found.

Panel Discussion. From left to right: professor Darko Marinkovic of the Megatrend University of Applied Sciences in Serbia, Gejtu Vella, Director of the People at Work Consultancy in Malta, Ike Wiersinga of the CNV Services Union in the Netherlands and WOW Executive secretary Bjorn van Heusden.

Ike Wiersinga from the Dutch CNV trade union for the services sector told enthusiastic about her experiences with a new method of bargaining called 'cocreation'. Cocreation is based on mutual trust between employer and employees, equal relationship, mutual understanding and transparant communications. Cocreation exists of 4 steps:
1. Exploration by a team of cocreators of both sides, an independent chairman or woman and preparation of the themes.
2. The creation of a survey by experts and/or working groups on the labour situation in the company, gathering of knowledge and facts, comparing the situation with other companies, the creation of discussion groups of employees and the establishment of an overall coordination group.
3. Decisionmaking must be build on advices from the theme-groups, one must decide what is shared by both sides and about what differences one must negotiate, one should clearly define interests, one must organize meetings with employees so they can give their opinions, and at the end there should be trade union voting on the final proposals.

4. Afterwards the results are evaluated monthly by employers and trade unions. Trade unions evaluate also if this method leads to more trade union members.

Saturday, February 8, 2014


The Kiev Maidan Place these days of the Revolution of Dignity, Eurorevolution or Euromaidan.

VOST “VOLYA” (VOST) receives solidarity messages and support from trade unions from all over the world for the just struggle of the Ukrainian people for decent life and decent work in free, democratic, really independent, prosperous Ukraine

Information message of the All-Ukrainian Union of Workers Solidarity VOST “VOLYA” (VOST) of 03 February 2014

The Revolution of Dignity which is named Eurorevoltion or Euromaidan too, showed aspirations of Ukrainians both from the West and the East to decent life and decent work in their free, democratic, really independent, prosperous Ukraine to the whole world. The longing for freedom is so strong that any sacrifices of patriots, any sadist NKVD repressions, any severe frost can stop it. The occupation illegitimate criminal oligarchic regime of bloody dictator Yanukovych surpassed itself in its crimes against the Ukrainian people and showed that it doesn’t only kill and disable but it also became terroristic because it grabbles innocent people straight at streets and uses them as hostages to intimidate while this regime imitates the so-called negotiations with the opposition.

In this tragic situation democratic trade unions of the world send declarations of solidarity with the Ukrainian people to VOST “VOLYA” and persuade their countries of the necessity of more efficient practical pressure by the world community against the regime.

Olexandre Dzhulyk, President of VOST "VOLYA" (picture taken at the  'European Social Week seminar' held in  Belgium, January 2014) 

NSZZ “Solidarnosc” (Poland) which began the age of renewing democracy not only in Poland but in the whole Eastern Europe expresses the solidarity with Ukrainian workers and emphasizes in the declaration of the National Commission concerning the situation in Ukraine: “The catastrophic economic and social situation in Ukraine is a result of unskillful policy of the government and the president’s administration, an oligarchic economy, corruption and lack of democratic procedures, first of all lack of authentic social dialogue… We call the authority of Ukraine to stop repressions against the society… NSZZ “Solidarnosc” declares the complete support for European aspirations of Ukraine and will cooperate with Ukrainian free trade unions… which want that Ukraine would join the EU”.

ZR of NZSS “Solidarnosc” in Gdansk (Poland) – a city that is a cradle of NSZZ “Solidarnosc” - expresses solidarity with aspirations of the Ukrainian people and remembers in its declaration it addressed to the president of VOST “VOLYA” Oleksandr Dzhulyk: “The history has showed that democracy can’t be prisoned, stopped by police cordons, damped by a police stick…Therefore we remember the authority of Ukraine that a modern state which will have its place in Europe, with its standards and democratic life model, can be built by listening to the voice of society.” There are also important words of Pope John Paul II in the declaration: “People is always right in a controversy between the authority and people”.

In the middle Yuri Kurilo, Vice-President of VOST "VOLYA". (Picture taken at the Seminar "What reasons do have trade unions to exist in a market with a declining support?" held in Denmark, february 2013.)

The Spanish Trade Union Confederation “Union Sindical Obrera” (USO) declares its support of Ukrainian citizens, workers, VOST in their struggle for freedom and free choice of their future. “Freedom doesn’t bring in coincidence with the policy of repressions. We watch the events in Ukraine attentively and are ready to help You in satisfaction of Your just demands” - Spanish trade union tells in its declaration.

The Democratic League of independent trade unions of Hungary (LIGA) “expresses its concern about the escalating situation in Ukraine and sends its solidarity to the workers. We would like to express our worry about the violence the peaceful street actions triggered by the side of the government and hope that the democratic tool of demonstrations and strikes will not lose their force in the future as a consequence.”

The World Organization of Workers (WOW) – with the headquarters in Brussels, Belgium – declares the “full solidarity to the trade union VOST-VOLYA and to the Ukrainian people” in its declaration and underlines that VOST “VOLYA” has always protected rights and interests of Ukrainian workers and now it struggles for political changes for new democratic Ukraine. “The Ukraine is part of Europe and an important partner for Europe. Through the activities of the opposition it has become clear, that the people want to be part of Western Europe and the European Union and are opposed to president Yanukovych and thus against the dictate of Russia”- the WOW declares.

The Austrian National Christian Trade Union FCG/CPA-djp emphasizes that “Christian values connect our two trade unions” and expresses the support for the Ukrainian people and activists VOST “VOLYA”, participants of Eurorevolution. FCG/CPA-djp supports the necessity of democratic changes in Ukraine and declares: “It is time for a change of power in the Ukraine. Democracy and liberty should become lived values. The undermining of human rights must come to an end.”

Reference. VOST “VOLYA” (VOST) is an independent democratic trade union association, whose activity is based on the universal principles of Christian morality. Trade union organizations that formed VOST have operated since 1989, and Trade union “VOLYA” was the first in Ukraine free inter branch union. VOST unites more than 150000 members and is a membership organization of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC). VOST comes out for the trade union reform in Ukraine and implementation of the motto “The 21st century – new trade unions”. Oleksandr Dzhulyk is the VOST president. The VOST “VOLYA” headquarters are located in Lviv.

Information center of the VOST “VOLYA” (VOST), tel. +380 63 407 72 98

Friday, February 7, 2014


The Board of the European Organization of the World Federation of Clerical Workers (EO/WFCW). From left to right standing:EO President Ivo Psenner (Austria), Treasurer Charles Steck (Swiss), World President Jaap Kos (Netherlands). Sittingfrom left to right: myself, EO Boardmember Richard Paiha and WCL assistant/secretary Chris Lenaerts.

The post-congress year 1994 began with the annual meeting of the European Council of the European Organization of the World Federation of Clerical Workers (EO/ WFCW) together with a seminar in Switzerland. It was a habit from the WCL to take care of the secretariat of the meeting and the seminar and to provide for interpreters. During the seminar speakers from within and outside the WFCW spoke about new developments in companies, banks and commerce such as flexible working hours, on-call workers, part-time contracts, etc. Also, experience is exchanged and developments in the countries about labour and trade unions are reported. The European Organization of the WFCW was not recognized as a social partner of the European Commission. That did not bother us too much. We were able to lobby for our views through our own contacts in and outside the European Parliament . Later on we organized a lobby about the proposals for a new European regulation of working hours and overtime. Our commitment was the preservation of Sunday as a day of rest, a campaign that was conducted as well by FETRALCOS in Latin America.

Magazine published by UATUC. Text left: Piet Nelissen and Bogdan Hossu believe that the Alliance of Independent Croatian Trade Unions and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions Croatian meet all the criteria for full membership of the WCL.
Above the photo: Delegation of the WCL on a four-day visit to Croatia
Head of the Article below: Observers satisfied.

My first mission with Bogdan Hossu as the new WCL Vice President for Central and Eastern Europe, was to the recent independent Croatia (June 1991), one of the states of the former communist Yugoslavia. The post-communist and reformed trade union confederation UATUC had requested the WCL mission as part of their investigation into an international affiliation. The debates with the UATUC Board, led by President Dragutin Lesar, were promising. It looked as if the UATUC would opt for joining the WCL.

Thanks to a visit to an area outside Zagreb affected by war , we were able to see for the first time with our own eyes the destruction that the Yugoslav war caused among the civilian population. The Yugoslavian war had become the bloodiest violence conflict in Europe since World War II. Despite the fact that Yugoslavia was a federal republic since World War II , in which several nations were united, it turned out to be untenable. Once Croatia declared independence under General Franjo Tudman without much ado, a kind of civil war broke out . What was left of the Yugoslav army, mostly Serbian and Montenegrin officers, invaded Croatia . Distrust was sown and led to a cruel war between the former Yugoslavian states Serbia , Croatia and Bosnia - Herzogowina . Yugoslavia turned out to have been an forced artificial unity guided by President Tito and the Communist Party.

Bogdan Hossu (on the right) and myself having a meeting with UATUC leaders in Karlovac, Croatia

The European Union proved powerless even to be divided over the policy to be followed. The first goal was to keep Yugoslavia together but that proved to be untenable. Old friendships, one thought they were forgotten, cropped up again. The conflict was ended only when NATO under U.S. leadership bombed Serbian nationalist President Milosevic to the negotiating table, with of course once again civilian casualties. The negotiations took place between November 1 and November 21, 1995 at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in the U.S. city of Dayton. The main participants from the region were Serbian President Slobodan Milosevic, Croatian President Franjo Tudjman, the Bosnian President Alija Izetbegovic and Bosnian Foreign Minister Mohammed Sacirbey. The treaty was signed in Paris on December 14, 1995.

In that period (November 1994) the UATUC held its congress. On behalf of the WCL, I was present together with Rudy de la Rue, policy officer of the Belgium trade union confederation ACV. Dragutin Lesar was not anymore a candidate for re-election as president of UATUC. During the conference and after, it became clear that the new leadership of UATUC did not plan anymore to join the WCL. Press Officer Jasna Petrovic took more distance of us than before. As a kind of consolation, the European Organization of WFCW could continue with the small trade union of employees in banks. Especially the Austrian friends invested a lot of time and money to develop this trade union. The larger trade union in the sector of commerce, which had been invited regularly to the yearly meetings in Central and Eastern Europe organized by our Austrian friends, had meanwhile joined FIET.

During the conference, a delegation of the delegates was received by President Tudman. As an international guest I was also invited. It was a tight almost military-organized reception. We had to stand in a row with the tips of our shoes on the carpet and the jacket buttoned. We should not look at the president directly. I found it hilarious. Something I had not experienced with other presidential and ministerial receptions. I suspect that this tight protocol was due to the fact that Tudman had been a soldier all his life.

Before the CIG Congress I made a short visit to Munkstancsok and Keszosz (5-7 March 1994). One of the goals was to look for a possibility to unite Keszosz with Munkastanscok. On the right below President Laslo Lansky of Keszosz. Second of left Keszosz international secretary Santos. 

We go back to the beginning of the year, March 1994. At the request of Secretary General Carlos Custer I visited the merger congress of the newly formed Confederacion Intersindical Galega CIG in Santiago Compostela, Spain. Neither of the two merger partners - INTG and CXTG – was a member of the WCL. According to Carlos, there were friendly relations. He expressed the hope that in the future the CIG would possibly become a member of the WCL. My presence with Véronique Rousseau, of the Department of International Affairs of ACV, and other international guests, including from Cuba, were good for the prestige of the Congress. As far as I could judge, the new CIG had no intention to join the WCL and indeed CIG has never become a member. Whether this is due to internal disagreements or organized pluralism within the trade union confederation or a question of ideological and/or financial opportunism, is always difficult to assess.

The CIG Congress, 19 March 1994.

About the international orientation of the CIG I did not have no illusions anymore after the adoption of the resolution against the economic blockade of Cuba by the U.S.. Not because Congress spoke out against the blockade, that was no more than usual. But what was not normal, was that the Congress at the same time did not defend trade union values as freedom of expression and association that not at all are respected by the Cuban regime. I found it strange that a trade union in a country that not so long ago was under the Franco dictatorship, did not bother to defend these important trade union values. In Cuba, a congress like the one of CIG would not even be possible.