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Date: Thu, 13 Jun 1996 06:53:59 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
/** 208.0 **/
** Topic: news from ICEM **
** Written 11:18 PM Jun 5, 1996 by glas:andre in **
From: (Andrey Mrost)
Date: Tue, 04 Jun 1996 11:35:34 GMT

Energy charter: Unions call for social protocol

From ICEM Update, No. 27, 4 June 1996

The following is from the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM)

As Western energy multinationals are taking over the electric power and gas industries of the Eastern European countries, the ICEM and its affiliated trade unions in this region have renewed their call for a Social Protocol to be added to the Energy Charter Treaty.

This was one of the resolutions of a conference held in Haltern, Germany on 1 - 2 June by the International Federation of Chemical, Energy, Mine and General Workers' Unions (ICEM). The ICEM represents some 20 million energy and allied workers in 113 countries of the world.

Entitled "Restructuring and New Role of Trade Unions in Central and Eastern European Electric Power Industries", the historic conference was attended by more than 100 delegates from 23 countries. This was the first time all major electric power, gas and coal mining unions of Central and Eastern Europe had gathered in the same conference hall with their Western European colleagues and managers of Western companies such as RWE Energie, Electricite de France and IVO, which are investing in the electric power industries of these countries in conjunction with the privatisation process.

As part of a campaign launched by ICEM's predecessors ICEF and MIF in 1993, the ICEM has again written to the Energy Charter Conference and to the European Union, urging them to negotiate social rules for multinational investment in the energy industries. The Energy Charter Treaty, which is signed by 49 nations and the EU, aims to liberalise the exploitation of, and trade in, energy. Principally targeted at Central and Eastern Europe, it seeks to establish a level playing field for multinational companies in the signatory states. It forbids these states to favour their own energy companies and to discriminate against foreign companies. However, the Treaty completely ignores any social dimension.

The Social Protocol would oblige the signatory countries to ratify and apply the cornerstone Conventions of the UN's International Labour Organisation (ILO). These include the ILO's international standards on freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining, health and safety, minimum age for employment, discrimination, equal remuneration and forced labour. As was reported by several delegates, wages are being paid up to 3-4 months late in the electricity industries of some Central and Eastern European countries, but electric power workers still do not have the right to strike in many countries of the region. The Conference also urged all governments to ratify ILO Convention 176 on Safety and Health in Mines, which was adopted in 1995.

"If we want to get the privatisation and restructuring process under control and if we are serious about creating a level playing field for business and for social advance, we need to balance the enthusiasm for profit with an equal enthusiasm for employment and social benefits," said ICEM General Secretary Vic Thorpe. He emphasised the need to introduce common rules not only for capital but also for labour matters.

The ICEM and its affiliates will pursue agreements on social rules with individual companies in conjunction with privatisation and foreign investment. Such accords, which have already been negotiated between foreign investors, trade unions and the government in Hungary, would guarantee trade union rights, continuity of collective agreements, high levels of employment, training programmes, social benefits and social facilities. Western company executives from RWE Energie, Electricite de France and IVO welcomed the idea of social partnership and the active role of trade unions in the restructuring process.

The ICEM urges international financial institutions such as the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to add similar social factors as essential elements in their funding agreements for energy projects in Central and Eastern Europe. Hans Berger, President of the ICEM and of the German Mine and Energy Workers' Union, in his opening speech criticised the World Bank for imposing too rapid changes at the cost of jobs, This, he said, was creating anti-western feeling in some Central and Estern European countries - for instance, in Russia.

ICEM UPDATE is available by e-mail or fax. Individual news items can be supplied in other languages on request.

avenue Emile de Beco 109, B-1050 Brussels, Belgium.
tel.+32.2.6262020 fax +32.2.6484316

Editor: Ian Graham, Information Officer

Publisher: Vic Thorpe, General Secretary.