On 15-18 November, ERA, in cooperation with HBT-Socialdemocrats organized a study visit for Trade Union representatives from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, and Serbia in Stockholm, Sweden.
The visit was attended by Aulon Kalaja from the Union of Independent Trade Unions of Albania (BSPSH), Lelja Čaušević Sućeska from the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slagjana Milivojevikj and Ljubica Pucarević from the Trade Union for Free Action in North Macedonia and Vesna Bajić from TUC NEZAVISNOST in Serbia. Amarildo Fecanji, Program Manager at ERA, Emelie Stark, Daniel Andersson, and Ewelina Edenbrink from HBT-Socialdemocrats, accompanied the participants in the study visit.
At this visit, the participants met with Emilia Wilkström Melin from the Swedish Union for Service and Communications Employees (SEKO), Emma Almgren from the Industrifacket Metall Trade Union (IF Metall), and Anders Bergérus from the Swedish Trade Union Confederation (LO). In addition to union representatives, they met with Alexander Ojanne, Vice-Mayor for Social Affairs and Public Safety at the Stockholm Municipality, and Daniel Vencu Velasquez, Member of the Swedish Parliament (Riksdag) and Member of the Social Democratic Party of Sweden. The study visit also included a tour of the Museum of the City of Stockholm, known for depicting the city's story through the lenses of the workers and the many communities that built the city over the years.
The main goal of this study visit was to strengthen connections between trade unions in our region and those in Sweden as well as provide good practices and examples of union engagement with LGBTIQ+ workers, particularly with regards to non-discrimination and inclusion, protection from discrimination and harassment and other positive and protective measures. The visit was also helpful for union representatives to share their respective countries' views and experiences and discuss the challenges and opportunities in their contexts.
The presentations by SEKO and IF Metall were beneficial as they shared concrete examples and practices for addressing LGBTIQ+ workers' issues in their respective unions. They presented the Swedish anti-discrimination legislation and the policies, procedures, and activities they had implemented to make the workplace of their members safe and accessible for LGBTIQ+ workers. This included revising primary documents by introducing feminist principles, conducting workshops and training on discrimination and language, publishing informative materials and internal campaigns, increasing and improving accessibility for trans and non-binary persons, etc. An interesting practice for both unions was introducing and applying pre-emptive measures, which would prevent acts of discrimination and harassment from taking place. Both unions placed great importance on identifying problematic occurrences, attitudes, behavior, or language and proactively ensuring their members' safety.
Discussions with the representatives of unions, as well as the Municipality of Stockholm and the Swedish Rigskdag, included an update on the political situation in the Western Balkans region and Sweden. LGBTIQ+ activists and union representatives from the Western Balkans elaborated on the increased challenges that workers and marginalized communities face in the region due to increased authoritarianism, neo-liberal practices, hate speech and hate crimes against LGBTIQ+ people, and the additional geo-political issues brought by the war of Russia in Ukraine.
ERA's goal is for LGBTIQ+ workers in our region to receive the attention they need and deserve and for unions adequately address their issues. ERA wants to increase our solidarity as LGBTIQ+ communities with all the workers in our region and the countless challenges they face in their respective countries.
This event was organized with the support of Olof Palme International Center.
For additional information on our work on the socio-economic rights of LGBTIQ+ people, please email [email protected].