In Europe and Central Asia, the Solidarity Center helps unions defend worker rights, promote legal reform, and gain workers their rightful voice in the political and economic transition process.
Since the fall of the Soviet Union, countries throughout Central and Eastern Europe and Eurasia have been struggling to become politically democratic participants in a free market economy. The transition has not been entirely successful, however.
Far too many governments persist in denying workers and unions their basic rights. The laws that do exist to protect workers are feebly enforced. Unemployment is high, and many employers fail to pay workers on time if at all. Illegal or corrupt privatization schemes coupled with the rapid growth of trafficking and organized crime have pushed working men and women further into poverty. Ongoing ethnic conflict still threatens to undermine democratic gains.
Russian Unionist Wins 2013 Svensson Prize for Trade Union Rights.
May 3, 2013—Valentin Urusov, the Russian electrician and trade unionist unjustly imprisoned for years in a Siberian penal colony, received the international Arthur Svensson Prize for Trade Union Rights in 2013. Urusov led the trade union Profsvoboda at Alrosa, the world's second largest diamond mining company, based in the northern Sakha province of Russia.
Global Unions Urge Release of Imprisoned Russian Trade Unionist
. February 6, 2013—Trade unionist Valentin Urusov is proof that in Russia, it’s still possible to be imprisoned in the 21st century equivalent of the gulag for standing up for worker rights on the job. An electrical fitter at an ore-processing mill owned by the diamond mining company Alrosa, Urusov has spent more than four years of a six-year term in a penal colony in Yakutia in far northern Russia.
Unions Mark No to Violence Against Women Day.
November 26, 2012—At a Turkish-owned textile plant in the Democratic Republic of Georgia a few years ago, female employers were repeatedly forced to remain on the job without pay for hours a day. When they ultimately demanded to be released, the factory manager responded by yelling and throwing a heavy load of unfinished dresses at one woman. The blow knocked her unconscious. The factory manager returned to Turkey to avoid prosecution—but likely would not have faced charges even if he had stayed, says Bob Fielding, Solidarity Center country program in Georgia, who described the incident.
Decent Work and the Valentin Urusov Case.
November 28, 2012—This is an excerpt from the Global Labour Column by Anna Wolañska, international secretary of NSZZ “Solidarnoœæ” and a member of the governing Body of the International Labor Organization (ILO). Like Russian politics, labor relations in Russia are rife with contradictions.
Solidarity Center, IUF Open Moldovan Migrant Worker Center.
October 10, 2012—The Solidarity Center and the International Union of Food, Farm, and Hotel Workers (IUF) have launched the Information Center for Migrant Workers (ICMW), in Chisinau, Moldova. This new resource center will advocate on behalf of Moldovan migrant workers, those considering migrating for work and their families. The center opened September 28.
Ukraine: Union Leader Injured by Police during Protest in Kyiv.
July 10, 2012—Ukrainian union leader Valentyna Korobka was hospitalized with a concussion and other injuries after she was assaulted by police at a July 4, 2012, protest in Kyiv, according to the Free Trade Union of Entrepreneurs of Ukraine (FTUEU), which she chairs. FTUEU is an active democratic union, focused on street vendors, the self-employed, and informal workers. It is affiliated with the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (KVPU) and the StreetNet International alliance of street vendors.
Legal Advisory Center Offers Free Job-Related Counsel to Kyrgyz Workers.
March 30, 2012—In Kyrgyzstan, as all over the world, the nature of work is changing, and protecting worker rights is more and more challenging. Although the law provides for the formation of unions, legal enforcement of worker and union rights is weak, and employers do not always respect statutory law and collective bargaining agreements. The Legal Advisory Center (LAC), established on March 12 at Kyrgyz National University, Bishkek, offers information about work-related issues and educates workers about their rights on the job.
Turkey: New ITUC Report Highlights Government's Failure to Protect Workers.
February 21, 2012—A new report released today by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) strongly criticizes the Turkish government’s failure to protect workers from exploitation and intimidation by private-sector employers and state authorities.
Worker Rights Endangered in Greece.
February 7, 2012—The International Trade Union Confederation has condemned the attacks on worker rights in the current demands being made of the Greek government by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The international trade union movement has urged all parties to engage instead in a genuine dialogue that could build a consensus-based economic recovery in Greece.
Debate in Kyrgyzstan: To Join or not to Join a Common Customs Border?
January 11, 2012—Would Kyrgyzstan’s membership in a regional economic bloc with Russia, Belarus, and Kazakhstan aid or undermine jobs, wages, and living standards for Kyrgyz workers? The Solidarity Center brought together some 70 government experts, union leaders, employers, researchers, and representatives of international organizations in Bishkek to discuss key concerns.
Belarus: Union Federation Demands Government Adopt Urgent Measures.
June 2, 2011—Economic chaos fueled by runaway prices, galloping inflation, and the collapse of the Belarusian ruble has led to a sharp deterioration in living standards of all citizens, especially the least socially protected. In response, the Belarusian Congress of Democratic Trade Unions (BKDP) has called for urgent measures from the Lukashenko government.
Urgent Appeal for Worker Rights in Turkey.
May 20, 2011—Workers in Turkey are denied their basic rights to organize in trade unions, to bargain collectively, and to take strike action as a result of laws that breach international worker rights standards. Amnesty International reports sackings, detention of union leaders, and violence against workers and unionists engaged in peaceful protest, with a big impact on families and communities.
Despite Repression, Workers Continue to Organize in Belarus.
April 18, 2011—It’s been a bad decade for the workers of Belarus. This former Soviet Republic gained independence in 1991 and, for a time, new unions independent of government or company control grew significantly. But with continuing political repression by President Alexander Lukashenko in the past 10 years, nascent workers’ organizations are facing extinction in what is now often called “the last dictatorship of Europe.”
Unions Outraged at Post-Election Violence in Belarus.
The global labor movement expressed outrage at the post-election human rights violations in Belarus, many directed at union members. "This kind of repression is totally unacceptable, and the international community . . . must not let it go unchallenged,” said International Trade Union Confederation General Secretary Sharan Burrow.
Human Rights Activist Killed in Bishkek Demonstration.
Joldoshbek Kudaibergenov, a 36-year-old representative of the International Association of Kyrgyz Diasporas, "Zamandash," was shot and killed on April 7, 2010, by a sniper targeting demonstrators on the central square in Bishkek. Kudaibergenov had worked closely with the Solidarity Center to combat human trafficking and to improve the situation of migrant Kyrgyz workers in Kazakhstan and Russia. He was a strong proponent of free unions as a basic instrument for advancing worker rights.
Ukrainian Unions Petition for Quality Health Care and Education
. On May Day the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine launched a public campaign in the province of Dnepropetrovsk to improve the rapidly deteriorating quality of health care and education, which undermines quality of life.
Iraqi Women Unionists Join Their Turkish Sisters for Historic International Womens Day
. For the first time ever, Iraqi women unionists visited Turkey to celebrate International Women’s Day with their Turkish sisters.
Ukrainian Unions Educating, Agitating, Organizing
. In the February 2009 issue of its International News Bulletin, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine reports on the election of Svetlana Kozakova to the groundbreaking position of Women’s Section National Organizer; picketings and strikes by metro, factory, and auto workers over unpaid wages; and new leaders and members in the medical workers union.
Another Russian Union Leader Assaulted!
Only weeks after a new local union formed at a St. Petersburg GM auto plant, its president was brutally attacked and beaten outside his home—the second assault in two months on a Russian auto union leader.
Russian Free Trade Unions Under Attack. Over the last several years the government of Vladimir Putin has consistently, deliberately, and logically shut down one avenue of free expression, pluralism, and democracy after another in Russia. The one bright spot that points the way toward a future for the Russian people is an actual democratic, independent union movement—one of few survivors of the past decade’s attacks on political opponents and non-governmental organizations.
Migrant Workers Under Attack in Russia. Moscow police are investigating the shocking murder of a 20-year-old Tajik migrant worker, whose severed head was found in a dumpster on December 10, four days after he and a co-worker were stabbed on the way home from their jobs at a suburban food warehouse. The beheading, for which a Russian ultranationalist group has claimed responsibility, is the latest in an escalating series of attacks against migrant workers.
Ukraine Labor Confederation Gains 2,000 New Members in August. The Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine reports in the second issue of its International News Bulletin that 2,000 aviation workers joined in the month of August.
Georgian Teachers Union to the Rescue. As Georgian workers struggle in the aftermath of the Russian invasion, Solidarity Center Country Program Director Robert Fielding is on the ground in Georgia and providing dispatches from the field.
Georgian Workers Send Russia a Message: Let Us Go Back to Our Jobs. As Georgian workers struggle in the aftermath of the Russian invasion, Solidarity Center Country Program Director Robert Fielding is on the ground in Georgia and providing dispatches from the field.
Ukraine Labor Confederation Launches E-Bulletin. With Solidarity Center support, the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Ukraine (CFTUU) published the first issue of its electronic monthly news bulletin.
Armed Assailants Attack Russian Dockworkers Union Leader. Russian dockworkers union Chairman Mikhail Chesalin was savagely stabbed, beaten, and left unconscious outside his Kaliningrad office.
Belarus Union Leaders Jailed. Belarusian police arrested eight union leaders shortly before the March 19 presidential election, charging them with treason.
Solidarity Center Publications
- Global Worker Rights Briefings: Ukraine (Feb. 2006). In the lead up to the March 26 parliamentary elections in Ukraine, the Solidarity Center hosted an expert panel to discuss possible electoral outcomes, and their anticipated impact on democracy and human rights.