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2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Azerbaijan

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 9 June 2007
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2007 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Azerbaijan, 9 June 2007, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca4528.html [accessed 20 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: 8,483,000
Capital: Baku
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

A battery manufacturer sacked 700 union members, while an oil company regularly harassed union members. Unions reported many cases of bad faith negotiating by employers, and widespread reluctance by employers to recognise or deal with unions. The ban on strikes in public transport remains in place.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association and collective bargaining: The Constitution provides for freedom of association, including the right to form trade unions. In 2004, the government ratified the European Social Charter, notably the articles on freedom of association and collective bargaining.

Under the 1994 Act on Trade Unions, seven persons or more may form a trade union and adopt its rules. Persons performing their military service, and managerial staff, are, however, excluded. The Act also provides for the right of trade unions to conclude collective agreements and prohibits discrimination against trade unions. A 1996 law provides for collective bargaining agreements to set wages in state enterprises.

In 2006 the Labour Code and the Act on Trade Unions were amended. According to the new changes employers can not dismiss employees without the written consent of the trade union within the enterprise.

By-passing the unions in multinational enterprises: According to national legislation, all labour laws cover all workers and enterprises operating in Azerbaijan. However, the government can legally conclude bilateral agreements with multinational enterprises (MNEs) setting aside labour laws. The parliament must ratify these agreements. They are not officially published and neither unions nor even labour inspectorates have access to them. This anomaly is leading to the violation of labour rights in such enterprises.

Public transport strikes still banned: The Constitution provides for the right to strike, but there are exceptions. In addition to banning strikes in the services deemed essential by international standards, the 1999 Labour Code states that employees of legislative authorities, relevant executive authorities, courts and law enforcement authorities may not go on strike. Article 188-3 of the Penal Code bans collective action aimed at disrupting public transport, and failure to respect the ban carries a penalty of up to three years' imprisonment. In 2001, the government said it was revising its legislation and promised it would take ILO comments into account, but no new regulation has yet been adopted.

Restrictions on union activities: The State prohibits unions from carrying out any political activities. Unions may not be associated with political parties, carry out joint activities with them, or receive financial support or provide them with financial aid. Such a general prohibition is deemed contrary to the principles of freedom of association.

Trade union rights in practice

Obstructing the formation of trade unions and trade union activities: Many joint ventures and foreign enterprises working in Azerbaijan, especially BP and it's subcontractors, Shell, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Azerbaijan International Operating Company (AMOK), and three transport companies, "Terter-Autonagliyat" JSC, "Agdzhabedi-Autonagliyat" JSC and "Beilagan-Autonagliyat", continued to create various obstacles to creating trade unions and trade union activities. Serious obstacles to forming trade unions have also been reported at joint ventures operating in the communications sector, in particular, Azercell, Bakcell. A common tactic was to fail to transfer trade union dues to trade union accounts.

Directors of many foreign companies working in the oil sector (there are over 50) also prevented their workers from forming trade unions.

Collective bargaining not respected: Most industries are still state-owned and are run by government appointed boards of directors who set wages. Despite the law, an effective system of collective bargaining between unions and enterprise management has yet to be established. Unions rarely participate in determining wage levels. Where collective agreements exist, they are not always respected.

The Azerbaijan Trade Union Confederation (ATUC) reported that although the law allows for workers in foreign companies to establish trade unions, and for non-Azerbaijani nationals to form trade unions, employers do not always respect the law.

Azeri nationals employed by foreign companies, notably oil companies, often face discrimination. In many cases they are hired on short term contracts for as little as three months, then dismissed from their positions. They are forced to work overtime, and do not receive annual holiday pay or compensation for occupational injuries or diseases.

Violations in 2006

Anti-union harassment at oil company: The Canadian-owned Karasu Development Company harassed trade union members and finally offered the chairman of the trade union committee a managerial position.

Multinational dismisses all union members: REMCO, a multinational lead-acid battery manufacturing company, demolished all trade union structures within the company and made 700 trade union members redundant, as a means of getting rid of the trade union.

Bad faith negotiations: Unions reported that during the year employers often delayed negotiations, changed negotiators, or sent staff who have no decision-making power to the negotiating table. In general, employers were often reluctant to have unions on their premises.

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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