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INFORMATION ON THE LEGAL PROTECTION OF SSM FOR DURING THE PANDEMIC

The Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia has organized a service for free legal protection for employment rights for its membership. Our legal representatives from SSM and the branch unions have provided free legal protection for our membership in Skopje as well as in the regional trade union offices throughout the country.

After the outbreak of the health crisis in the country due to the Corona virus, SSM and the branch unions reorganized their work in accordance with the recommendations of the Government. All services, including legal protection, were conducted by telephone and e-mail. In exceptional cases, meetings with workers who approached SSM were organized respecting the recommendations and regulations adopted by the Government of the country. (Meeting of the President of SSM and representatives of the workers from Mak Primat, meeting of the President of SSM and the President of STKC with workers from Bargala Stip, etc.)

We emphasize that currently we do not have fully summarized records of the addresses of workers from all over the country, i.e. we will have a complete report after the end of the state of emergency and the health crisis. At this moment we are focused on responding to the addresses of workers and providing them with necessary information and legal protection of their employment rights.

In the period of March and April, we have addresses from workers from the following companies: Mak Primat, Cast Invest, Rade Koncar, Inter Tours DOOEL, TAV, Dalma Catering, Pelister, Krombert and Schubert, Drexlermeier, Ke Safeti System, Oilco, Bargala, Johnson Matthey, Joyson safety sistems Kicevo, Teteks Yarn, San Invest, Marble Factory and others.

The companies from which the workers are coming from comprise more than 20.000 employees.

During the month of May, we have addresses from FZC 11 Oktomvri Kumanovo regarding the termination of the work process and the referral of workers to go home with the right to a salary of 50% with the explanation that the company will not work due to "force majeure". The services of SSM prepared an opinion and a request for action to the State Labor Inspectorate. Individual complaints were later lodged against 50% salary decisions due to force majeure. Also, the President of the trade union organization from FZC informed that a procedure for dismissal for business reasons has started. An opinion has been prepared regarding the notification of the employer for initiating the procedure for dismissal for business reasons.

A representative of a trade union from the trade union organization in Marble Factory Prilep approached SSM regarding Decision for termination of the employment contract, to a trade union representative on the basis of guilt and initiated disciplinary procedure. An objection was prepared to the Decision for termination of the employment contract, and several workers from the Marble Factory Prilep addressed SSM regarding exercise of the right to paid leave as persons covered by the measures for protection against corona virus. The services have prepared an opinion regarding the addresses, for which the State Labor Inspectorate has been informed and their actions are awaited.

At the request of the workers in the factory Bargala from Stip, the President of the Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia and the President of the Trade Union of Workers of the Textile, Leather and Shoe Industry of the Republic of Macedonia (STKC) met with the Director of the company and workers.

The workers informed SSM’s leadership on the unpaid salaries.

The Union advised the management to seek financial support if the factory faces difficulties in paying workers 'wages, according to the Decree on Employers' Financial Crisis Support due to COVID-19.

At the meeting with the management and employees of Bargala, it was agreed that unpaid salaries will be paid in accordance with the established and agreed dynamics and the salary for February 2020 will be paid in full until May 8, 2020, while salaries for March will be paid untill May 20, salaried for April untill June 8 and salaries for May untill June 20 in the amount of 80% in accordance with Article 18, paragraph 1 and paragraph 3 of the General Collective Agreement for the private sector, after which the difference from the less paid salary in the amount of 20% per month will begin to return with the salary for August 2020.

The agreement has already been realized and the salaries of the employees are being paid in accordance with the envisaged dynamics.

A meeting with the management of Makprimat was held where the President of SSM pointed out all violations of the Law by the management, and after the engagement of SSM and filed complaints to the State Labor Inspectorate, 90 workers were returned with a decision from the Labor Inspectorate.

The Secretary of RTUO Kumanovo in his report on the undertaken activities for the month of May 2020, has pointed out that during the state of emergency there are a large number of layoffs of workers from the shoe industry, due to which as a representative of SSM organized meetings with representatives of employers and workers. Regarding this problem and the need for subsidies for this region, a meeting with the Prime Minister of the country has been organized, and the obligation for subsidies in this activity will be realized, which comprises 1400 employees.

There is a large number of anonymous calls, mostly electronically, for employment rights to which the representatives of SSM respond by phone or e-mail with advice and guidance on the manner and procedure for exercising the rights.

In general, the complaints are related to: referral leave or forced leave without decisions, termination of employment while the forced or annual leave is still in force, forced leave for chronically ill persons and mothers with children up to 10 years of age etc. Also, some of the addresses refer to the fact that the employers unjustifiably transform their employment relationship from indefinite employment to fixed-term employment, as well as regarding the pressures on the workers to sign a contractual termination of employment. Some of the addresses are related to work contracts, undeclared work, temporary employment through private temporary employment agencies, etc.

It should be noted that most of the addresses are coming from workers who are not unionized, which makes it difficult for SSM to work on their protection.

This situation also confirmed the position of CCM that it is of particular importance for workers to be unionized so that they can be fully informed, trained and involved in the procedures for recognition, protection and promotion of workers' rights.

In addition to direct legal assistance and protection of the rights of its membership, SSM with its activities realized in this period of crisis, proved that as a representative union in the country cares and takes responsibility for exercising the rights of all workers.

Since the beginning of the crisis, SSM has initiated measures to be taken by the competent state bodies and institutions to ensure protection of the health and life of workers and citizens. We actively participate in the work of the Economic and Social Council; we negotiated and agreed with the government in order to protect workers' and civil rights having as less consequence from the crisis. Our goal is workers and their families to be maximally protected during the crisis.

 During this period we undertook activities and have achieved:

- not to suspend the Labor Law and other labor related laws and collective agreements

- workers' salaries not be reduced below the minimum wage level

- not to reduce the salaries of public sector employees

- not to provide financial support to companies that have laid off workers since the beginning of the crisis, as well as to provide retroactive return to work of workers who were laid off from the beginning of the crisis in order for the company to acquire conditions for financial support from the state. In this way, a large number of fired workers have been returned to work.

- to provide protection to precarious workers (freelancers, etc.), who are the most insecure and vulnerable category of workers.

 - to abolish the Decree restricting the payment of allowances and salary compensations for public sector employees during a state of emergency, because such allowances are received by workers whose work has increased need, especially in this period of crisis (inspectors, firefighters, media workers, forest police, railroad workers, etc.).

- Employers to have an obligation to provide personal protective equipment and provide healthy and safe working conditions in companies in accordance with corona virus protection protocols

- a right to compensation for lost job in the amount of 50% of the average net salary

- postponed payment of loan installments

- Bankruptcy proceedings will not be opened and previous proceedings will not be initiated during the state of emergency.

The activities of SSM continue in the forthcoming period as well, we cooperate and agree with the representatives of the government and employers, but we will uncompromisingly take all measures and activities that according to the law are available to us for full protection of workers and their families. SSM's position is that human potential is the most important for any society, and the trade union slogan -"Solidarity, above all," in these conditions of health crisis, has been fully expressed and accepted by all countries in the world.

Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia

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