Balkan railway unions join forces

26/12/2013

Unions from eight regional countries have created a forum to defend workers' rights and bring forth projects to modernise the railways.

By Miki Trajkovski for Southeast European Times in Skopje -- 26/12/13

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Railway union representatives established the Forum of Railway Workers Unions of Southeast Europe in Skopje. [Miki Trajkovski/SETimes]

Railway unions in the Balkans are working together to protect workers' rights and seek funding from the EU and other sources to modernise railways, officials said.

This month, unions from Romania, Bulgaria and the former Yugoslav countries formed a Forum of Railway Workers Unions of Southeast Europe, marking the culmination of a three-year effort to unify the railway sector.

The idea of establishing the forum arose from the need to build a unified position and defend transportation workers' common interests, said Ekaterina Jordanova of Bulgaria, a vice president of the European Federation of Transportation Workers.

"We need to care for the workers ... but also for the health of the companies so that they will provide conditions and wages to live a dignified life here just as they do in Austria and Germany," Jordanova told SETimes.

Officials said the forum will provide a platform for the members to communicate and exchange experiences, and called on railway unions from other countries to join.

The forum will identify potential areas of co-operation, promote jobs for railway workers, fight against government dumping measures and also promote dialogue, said forum president Ljube Stojkovski.

"Croatia and Romania at present are privatising their transportation systems, and in these countries jobs will be lost. But from now on, we will co-ordinate all activities and measures [to address such situations]. By co-operating, we can exert influence and ensure that some things do not take place," Stojkovski told SETimes.

Improved transportation infrastructure provides opportunities for opening new industries, said Rolf Lutzke, executive director of the European Academy for Environmentally Friendly Transport.

"Through the forum, we will try to improve transportation infrastructure, which presupposes better services and prospects for the region. The best example of [such past efforts] is Romania, which developed its industry thanks to its new roads," Lutzke said.

Experts said the forum will attempt next to influence governments to pay greater attention to the railways and promote joint development projects.

Modernising the existing railway infrastructure will increase the volume of work, which means workers' rights will be more easily achieved, Stojanovski said.

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"We try to exert influence as much as we can to ensure there are no layoffs of railway workers and the railways are safe," he added.

Regional railways must actively participate in all regional initiatives, but they also must satisfy EU standards, said Ljupco Balkovski, former transportation minister of Macedonia.

"This agreement for co-operation by regional states will bring them an increase in transportation, both for goods and people," Balkovski told SETimes.

What can the Balkan countries do to advance railway workers' rights and railway modernisation? Share your opinion in the comments space.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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