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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Moldova

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 20 November 2008
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Moldova, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca7b41.html [accessed 22 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 3,800,000
Capital: Chisinau
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

National legislation falls short of ILO standards. The authorities exploit legal ambiguities against trade unions who refuse to submit to government interference and control. Arson was attempted in a trade unionist's home, possibly in connection with his activities in organising.

Trade union rights in law

The right to form or join a trade union is recognised by the Constitution. The Trade Union Law of July 2000 provides for trade union independence. It also provides for basic trade union rights such as collective bargaining as well as the protection of trade union assets and the guarantee of trade union activities.

Restrictions on forming trade unions: Moldavian legislation only allows top-down organising. If workers in a company wish to organise, they will be able to do so only if they immediately join an existing national-level trade union. In a country where trade union independence has been compromised, such a system is understandably a cause for concern.

Section 10 (1) and (5) of the Trade Union Law stipulates that trade unions acting nationwide on national, sectoral and inter-sectoral levels acquire legal personality after being registered, while primary (company-level) unions and unions that do not operate nationwide (territorial sectoral and cross-sectoral levels) acquire legal personality in accordance with charters of the national, sectoral and inter-sectoral trade unions to which these lower-level trade unions are affiliated. The ILO has repeatedly asked the government to clarify whether primary or territorial-level trade unions could function autonomously, but the government did not reply at the time of writing.

Meanwhile, interchangeable use of the words "trade union" and "trade union centre (federation or confederation)" in the laws creates a confusing situation for workers who decide to create a new industry-level trade union.

Long and cumbersome registration procedures: Trade union registration is compulsory. The 2005 Instruction No. 231 "On Registering the documents of non-profit organisations" made registering a trade union a very long, complicated and costly process. Amongst other documents, a trade union should present the detailed list of members, a certificate from the Language Centre that the trade union's proposed name is grammatically correct and a certificate from the Ministry of Justice proving that the proposed name is not already in use. They have to pay a state fee of around 20 LEU for each certificate and a registration fee of 54 LEU. The final decision is taken on the level of the Deputy Minister of Justice. This Instruction applies not only to trade unions but also to other organisations, including political parties. It has reportedly been used to delay or block registration of opposition groups.

No sanctions for violations of trade union rights: The Penal Code does not provide any sanctions for violations of the freedom of association. Article 41 of the Code of Administrative Contraventions (minor offences) provides sanctions for violations of labour laws. However, this provision does not specifically mention trade union rights, which led to the practice of prosecutors rejecting trade unions' appeals against anti-union behaviour of employers and government. In 2006, at the ILO's recommendation, the government drafted an amendment that would sanction obstructing trade union activities by a (low) fine. Later the government reported to the ILO that it had decided to abandon this amendment and that the solution would be sought in the framework of a completely new Code on Contraventions.

Restrictions on the right to strike: Government workers and those in essential services are not allowed to strike. The list of workers that do not have the right to strike exceeds the categories defined by the ILO as essential services. Compulsory arbitration may be imposed at the request of only one party to the conflict, which is contrary to ILO standards. Engaging workers to replace those on strike is expressly prohibited by the Labour Code.

The Labour Code prohibits political strikes and does not expressly allow solidarity strikes.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: The communist-led government still sees trade unions as its sphere of influence. The political climate is becoming less and less democratic; the June municipal elections were sharply criticised by the OSCE because of the government's abuse of administrative resources and media bias. Moldova is one of the poorest countries in Europe. Unemployment remained high, with many either seeking employment abroad or earning a living in the country's large informal economy. Wage arrears stood at almost ninety million LEU (around 5,6 million euros) by the end of the year.

Controversial merger: For several years, the government agencies have been exerting pressure on trade unions to leave the ITUC-affiliated Confederation of Trade Unions of Moldova (CSRM) for the trade union confederation Solidaritatea, which was a much more amenable partner for the government. An official complaint to the ILO Committee of Freedom of Association was lodged in 2004, but even the ILO intervention could not stop the anti-union harassment.

In June CSRM and Solidaritatea ceased to exist, and a new confederation was formed on the basis of their former affiliates; CSRM, unable to withstand the government's pressure any longer, was essentially taken over by Solidaritatea.The new confederation did not automatically inherit membership in the ITUC and will need to prove its independence from the government to the international trade union movement.

Weak enforcement: Law enforcement remains weak. Neither labour inspectorates nor prosecutor's offices have proved effective in monitoring and enforcing respect for labour standards, especially the right to organise.

Collective bargaining – government's manipulation: The bulk of CSRM membership used to be public sector workers. The government's conflict with CSRM directly affected trade union members: neither CSRM nor its affiliates in public services could successfully negotiate pay raises. In 2007 the centrally negotiated minimum wage for budget workers was only 400 LEU (just under 50 EUR), compared to 700 LEU in the real sector.

When CSRM refused to put its signature on the new tripartite minimum wage agreement that once again failed to increase minimum salaries in public sector, the government threatened to exclude CSRM from the whole tripartite bargaining process. In February the government refused to have separate negotiations with CSRM just for public-sector workers on the pretext that the law did not foresee the government's participation in social dialogue in employer's capacity.

Registration denied: On 3 February a group of civil servants, discouraged by controversy surrounding existing trade union organisations, came together to establish a completely new, nonaffiliated Trade Union Association of Public Administration and Civil Service. In March the Ministry of Justice interpreted the law as allowing a trade union to be formed only if at least three territorial trade union associations decided to do so, and denied trade union registration. Trade unionists decided to be flexible, create territorial associations and then register again after a new founding congress on 27 April. No official response came in due time, but the trade union was informed that its registration had been denied once again. The Ministry of Justice's decision, which the trade union received only on 15 June, exploited the legislative uncertainties. Registration was denied, since, according to the civil code, the territorial associations should have been registered. The trade union protested the decision. On 3 December the Chisinau Court of Appeal reversed the Ministry's decision and ordered that the trade union be registered. (The claim for damages was rejected, though.) At the time of writing it was known that the Ministry managed to get the Supreme Court to cancel the court of appeal decision, with a new trial to take place later.

Trade unionist's home attacked: On 14 February 14 at 00:40 Grigore Slanina, the then head of the CSRM organising department, was woken up by fire outside his apartment. Fortunately, the fire was extinguished quickly by inhabitants, and initially the police investigation was rather swift as well.

Slanina was involved in establishing the Trade Union Association of Public Administration and Civil Service (see above) and was later elected as its president. Just before the founding congress took place, he was threatened that "measures would be taken" if a new organisation were to be established. In the evening of 14 February, while questioned by the police, Slanina suspected that these threats and the arson were connected. After that the police investigation slowed down.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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