In Bucharest this week, UNI Europa Commerce endorsed an ambitious four-year plan to organise workers around Europe. Under the new leadership of Handels’ Susanna Gideonsson, the commerce sector will move forward with a strong commitment to organizing commerce workers and building power. The Conference unanimously adopted an action plan aimed at growing union power and influence in Europe. The new Swedish President Gideonsson emphasised a strong focus on youth as a priority for a growing sector.
“Young workers are not only our future, they are our present as well,” said Gideonsson. “Across Europe our values of solidarity, decent work and justice bring us together. Now we share a strong action plan and strategy to move forward together.”
Rafal Tomasiak from COZZ underlined the groundbreaking work the organizing center has made in building worker power — making collective bargaining and union rights a possibility in Central and Eastern Europe. Erkan Ersoy also highlighted the fundamental role that the new UNI initiative – Europe’s Power and Organizing Centre – could make in the fight for bargaining rights and freedom of association in the region.
UNI affiliates shared their successes and challenges whilst looking to examples from other countries as inspiration for their own struggles.
Eyup Alemdar, the president of Koop-Is from Turkey told the conference about the great organizing success in Turkey. “We have organized H&M workers in Turkey and concluded the first collective agreement in the fast fashion sector”.
One of the issues that has a wide-ranging impact on commerce unions everywhere is the high turn-over rate in the sector. “With such a high turn-over rate, it’s absolutely essential to keep organizing commerce workers in order to maintain our power” said Alfred Bujara, President of Solidarnosc from Poland.
The General Secretary of the Romanian Federation of Commerce Workers, Vasile Gogescu discussed the challenges facing Romanian commerce unions, who are trying to grow union power in the sector—despite the 50 percent threshold which represents a huge obstacle to collective bargaining. Gogescu asserted that “UNI’s Global framework agreements play a crucial role in organizing and collective bargaining”.
Two of the youngest participants at the Conference, Emma Haapasaari of PAM, Finland and Andreas Samuelsson of Handels, Sweden urged delegates to promote and strengthen youth participation in the trade union movement.
Following the adoption of the new structure of the steering committee; the president, 7 vice-presidents and steering committee members of UNI Europe Commerce were unanimously elected.