From 15 to 17.12.2014g. Mila Nikolova – FTTUB expert and Martin Ivanov from the CITUB visited Austria as last phase of a Confederation’s training in decent work, part of a joint international project. There, in the rich and full of meetings program, they met trainers and participants in the same training; visited labor unions, public structures, infrastructure projects and sites related to transport, in response to the interest shown by FTTUB.
During the first day the guests were given a brief presentation of the structure and way of conducting social dialogue, in which Austria differs from the other European countries. The only one for all Austrian trade unions confederation OGB protects workers in collaboration with the so-called “Chamber of Labour”, whose members are all the workers, trade union members or not. The Chamber is responsible for legislative initiatives and is rather the political face of labor (there are groups from different parties), while the Confederation supports collective bargaining at sectoral and company level for its members. Both structures are in constant interaction and complementarity. Thanks to the long practice this mechanism works easily and efficiently.
In the afternoon, they visited the construction of a logistics center for containers outside the city. It will be built in 2 phases and on completion of the first one, thousands of containers annually are expected to be delivered and redistributed between road and rail. The center will primarily serve the needs of the city and the east side of the country. It is located near a highway and the existing railway line will be duplicated and connected separately to the nearest railway unit. In order not to burden at a glance the railway company budget, the center is performed by a private company, and will later be rented by the Austrian railway company.
Later, the guests visited the office of the NGO – partner “Sudwind” and got acquainted with its activity aimed mainly at protecting both consumers and workers in different industries. It is of paramount importance to link in public awareness the quality of the product to the quality of the workplace of people who create it. For example, products that use child labor are normally refused by customers – they would not trust such manufacturer about the quality of the goods. So, similar NGO’s campaigns in Austria contribute to better working conditions worldwide.
In the evening, the guests visited one of the many Christmas markets and tried traditional punch in the company of their Austrian colleagues – fellow students within the project, some of whom will visit Bulgaria in January.
Meetings held the next day in Vienna and Linz, aimed to acquaint guests with the structure of the Austrian trade union activities and social dialogue. Bulgarian “students” visited the headquarters of the Confederation – training and international relations departments, as well as the transport union VIDA premises. They met extremely prepared, creative and tireless friends and colleagues. This exchange of experience continued during the afternoon in Linz, where they acquainted with the “Trade union school”. For more than half a century Austrian unions held evening and weekends training within the school year to teach various general knowledge and skills to volunteer participants: European structures and procedures, labor and social security legislation, negotiation skills, presentation skills and so on. The model is so successful that it has recently been exported and developed in Moldova, where he won more and more union members. It is quite similar to the trainings conducted by FTTUB training on trade union culture in content and methodology.
No less interesting and important as a public impact are trainings conducted in partnership with the Chamber of labor. These start at school age – 13 years, when teachers choose workshops from a list of socially important topics related to the economy and labor, and bring their class. A workshop lasts 2 hours, with group task and by giving answers on specific issues presented by video. Multimedia and everything needed is used so that it becomes more than a seminar but a pleasant game. At the same time, participants adopt and formulate their own clear messages – against discrimination, for more social responsibility, for better working conditions, etc. – as consumers and according to their age.
On the third day, the guests visited the cargo terminal in the port of Vienna. Unlike Bulgarian river ports, it looks a lot like a seaport mainly because of the standard shipping containers used by railway and road transport. Several major logistics companies seat on the territory of the port, but loading and unloading can be carried out only by port workers. There are railway line and road infrastructure for trucks, although the narrow space creates difficulties. By the end of the next year it will be extended by an artificial leg and another terminal that will be connected with the mainland. It remains to deal the issue of the river depth – as well at high levels as in decline.
To summarize, the visit showed that despite the crisis and general transport problems in Europe, good social dialogue is crucial for the development of the economy, industrial relations and working conditions. However, it comes only through joint efforts to build public culture from an early age.