SONK, EI’s Macedonian affiliate, is celebrating the legalisation of a new trade union centre of which it was a founding member.
The Confederation of Free Trade Unions (KSS), set up by progressive unions in Macedonia including the teachers' union SONK, was registered by the Ministry of Labour on 24 March. This is an important step for social dialogue in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. The registration process had been slow as some stakeholders were fiercely opposed to trade union pluralism in the country. The KSS now has the legal right to participate in collective bargaining for the public sector. With a total membership in excess of 42,000 public sector workers, the KSS represents more than the 33% of the relevant workforce threshold, set by the Ministry of Labour, to qualify for collective bargaining. The KSS will today send a letter to the Ministry of Labour asking it to begin the process of negotiating a new national collective bargaining agreement covering the public sector. The previous agreement, negotiated in June 1994, expired in June 2005. In July 2005, SONK broke away from the CCM (the former official Federation of Trade Unions of Macedonia) following successive failed attempts to democratise and modernise CCM's organisation and structure. On July 13, the CCM leadership tried to expel SONK from the Confederation, but did not succeed because not enough branch union presidents were present for the vote to be held. Since SONK broke away, its representatives have been pressurised and threatened. Now that the new confederation is registered, it will be able to open a bank account, rent an office, hire staff, and register new members.