On 22 July 2013, StreetNet conducted its Eastern European Workshop for its Affiliates from Eastern Europe and Central Asia in Bishkek (Kyrgyzstan).
The main objective of this workshop was to bring awareness to StreetNet Affiliates on issues such as Social Protection Floors, Negotiations Forum for street vendors and Social Solidarity Economy.
However, since the 4th International Congress adopted the Resolution on the fifth Regional Focal Point for Europe and Central Asia, the participants of this workshop had to start discussion on the issue of focal point organisation in their region.
Pat Horn, StreetNet’s International Coordinator, opened the workshop and introduced the agenda, its aim and the expectations from the participants. Mubara Niyazova, Deputy Chairperson of the Trade union of Commerce who replaced Damira Dolotalieva, also welcomed the participants.
There were 8 participants representing StreetNet Affiliates from 3 Eastern European countries (Moldova, Ukraine, Azerbaijan), from Central Asian countries (Kyrgyz Republic) and one participant from UPTA (Spain) who represented the only Western European affiliate of StreetNet. The aim was for UPTA to start engaging with and getting to know the other StreetNet affiliates in Europe on the Eastern side.
One leader of trade union of market vendors from Kazakhstan, whose organisation is not yet affiliated with StreetNet, was also present.
Pat Horn also briefed the participants about the StreetNet policy, its structure and priorities. She also presented a short history of creation of this organisation.
Within the rest of the day, the workshop was focused on the following issues:
- Social Solidarity Economy, its aims and how it works providing with good examples from Latin America and India;
- Social Protection Floor, developed document by WIEGO and StreetNet “SPF for Working Poor” which contains the idea of SPF, its components, package of basic securities, the ILO Recommendation 202, “formalisation of the informal economy” issues which brings attention to 7 elements of formalisation identified by workers from different sectors of the informal economy.
The subject of a Model Framework for collective bargaining at local level was also presented and discussed during this activity.
Participants from Moldova, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Ukraine indicated that until now there was not any kind of established forums to negotiate on behalf of informal workers. They highlighted a big need in such forums with an aim to protect informal workers’ rights and even specified advantages and disadvantages of such forums.
The Central Committee of Trade union of Commerce of Kyrgyz Republic – the only union which has big experience in negotiating forums and representative of this union shared with all the participants of how they managed to reach the negotiations with municipality and, more so to maintain being such a respected union at the city level.
Mubara Niyazova told us about the Dordoi market union’s successes and shared with one big and very useful example on how the union proved to the local Tax office that the local city budget can be increased not “by raising the rental payment for traders” but by paying the low taxes but by all the traders. This case brought a big achievement for the union and eventually, the membership started to grow very fast.
The Dordoi market is the largest international wholesale and retail market in Central Asia with around 30 000 engaged traders and additional 10 – 15 thousand supportive service staff. The union comprises around 13 000 members (vendors and porters) and has a very positive and strong reputation both inside and outside the city market.
The vendors sell a wide range of all the kinds of products from food to manufactured goods (fabric, clothing, electrical goods, toiletries, handicrafts) both domestic and imported. The vendors also provide services such as hairdressing, foreign currency exchange, and phone and food delivery.
However, since the textile industry is well developed in Kyrgyz Republic, the domestic garment products dominate in the market and are popular through its better qualityas well as the price.
Very good experience was shared by Natalia Cera Brea, UPTA’s Legal Department Officer, who mainly focused on the Law on Autonomous Workers in Spain. The existence of such legal Act solves the problems of self-employed workers in terms of their legal recognition andeventually, after being officially registered as an “autonomous worker”, this worker is automatically covered by the social security.
At the end of the day the participants discussed the issue of the Regional Focal Point for Europe and Central Asia and agreed that this subject requires more studies and discussions among affiliates in Europe and Central Asia.
Pat Horn emphasized that the first stage of RFP discussion was initiated by StreetNet Secretary Cesar Garcia Arnal, who represents UPTA and who submitted his proposal position paper regarding the location of RFP for Europe, to the International Council Meeting (May 2013). In this letter he reflected the UPTA position, highlighting that Western European country would be a good location for RFP as most of the influential International institutions are based in Western Europe, namely in Brussels.
This discussion on this topic didn’t stipulate to make any final decision by the Eastern European and Central Asian Affiliates regarding the RFP for Europe and Central Asia. But the representatives succeeded to agree on some very important requirements which should be taken into account while making the final decision in this regard:
- A Russian speaking country;
- Convenience to entering the country (visa issue, duration of travelling).
Feedback from attendees was overall positive as it was recognised that this workshop offered a great opportunity to acquire new skills and knowledge as well as to share their experience.