Victor Yushchenko met with members of Ukraine’s trade unions and professional associations to speak about how to promote social dialogue as an element of the country’s social and economic policies, president's press office reported.

“Social dialogue is a prerequisite for Ukraine’s membership in the European Union. This is why we need to develop it. A bill on social dialogue, which I have recently proposed, explains for the first time how to boost this dialogue in Ukraine’s industries and regions,” he said, calling on the trade unions to express their opinion on his proposals and suggesting that they also develop bills.

The President said he was going to meet with members of the National Tripartite Social and Economic Council, as well as employers, trade union leaders and government officials, to formulate an action plan for 2007.

He outlined some of the challenges ahead: reforming the labor market, encouraging employers to create new jobs, train and retrain their employees, creating comfortable working conditions, raising the minimum wage, setting the minimum hourly wage, promoting pension reform and introducing pension insurance and compulsory medical insurance.

In his speech, Yushchenko said social problems impeded the country’s progress.

“Every seventh family  consisting of people of working age lives in poverty today,” he said.

He added that today’s salary debt was almost UAH 1 bln but expressed confidence this problem could "definitely" be resolved.

“I am convinced this problem is not fatal if we – trade unions, employers and the government decide to resolve it,” he said, adding that he was ready to help by “involving prosecutor’s offices, regional administrations and ministries in making a schedule to tackle the issue.”

The President said every fourth employee in the country was paid less than the living wage and called it “unacceptable.” He expressed hopes the government and parliament would fulfill their obligation to raise the living wage after the first quarter of the year.

“I hope the government and the Verkhovna Rada, which promised to resolve this problem after this year’s first quarter, will resolve it,” he said, reminding those present that he had vetoed the draft budget because of its social flaws.

Yushchenko also said most of the created jobs did not correspond to modern labor requirements. He said our social standards deprived the citizens of motivation to work. He added that it was important to reform the social sector, urging those present to encourage the government to take relevant action.  

The President also insisted that the national economy must be legalized.

“This is our key challenge. If we fail to accept it, we will continue complaining about our inability to create a social budget,” he said.


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