The SKUPA trade union will fight for labour rights and better working conditions of those engaged in associations, trade unions, private and non-governmental foundations, non-profit cooperatives and political parties.
According to Sandra Kasunić, one of the founders of the union and a member of its board, the idea to establish such a union was developed between several enthusiasts who decided to do more than just complain to each other about the malfunctioning system, bad working conditions, administrative violence and the overall irrationality and injustice they faced on a daily basis. As there was no union they could join that would recognize their specific problems – they founded their own.
“We wanted a union that reflects what we think a union should represent. The civil sector has simply not been organized, nor has it been in the focus of the trade unions so far, probably because the boundaries between the employer and the worker in the sector are blurred”, Kasunić states.
Kasunić emphasizes that in the civil sector the conflict between labour and capital has a different form from the traditional one and that this is why the founders decided to start their own union. They hope that it will gradually broaden its capacity and grow into a union that organizes all workers who share the same principles and values. SKUPA is open to persons engaged and employed in any way, be it through employment contracts, service contracts, part-time contracts or volunteering, as well as unemployed persons active in the non-governmental sector.
The union’s founding statement clarifies that its members will fight against precarious work, exploitation, all forms of abuse and discrimination, against burnout and, more generally, disturbances of mental and physical health in the workplace, as well as against negative public perception of workers in the civil sector. Union’s representatives announce that they will organize education programs on labour rights, engage in advocacy and negotiations with employers, donors and state bodies, provide legal and other forms of support and assistance, and engage in activism.
“Certainly, our short-term priorities are to raise awareness in the sector about the significance of workers’ rights and trade unionizing, and about the fact that workers in the sector are in fact members of the working class. In addition, we want to consolidate the organisation and learn how we can serve it as well as possible, given that all members of the union bodies are currently volunteers.”
Kasunic told Mašina that it took two years to establish the union. The founding congress, which was attended by about thirty people, was held on December 7, 2021.
“There are already 40 of us, and we have received a significant number of expressions of interest for membership since the news of the union became public. This states to the fact that the establishment of such a union was necessary and long-awaited. The registration with the Ministry of Labour is still on-going, but we believe that this process will end soon and that we will be able to start working at full speed in order to build a stable, independent, progressive, political, solidary and feisty union”, Kasunić concluded.
Translation from Serbian: Iskra Krstić
This article was ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Serbian on Jan 13, 2022.