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2008 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Kyrgyzstan

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 - Kyrgyzstan, 20 November 2008, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4c52ca84c.html [accessed 2 August 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: 5,300,000
Capital: Bishkek
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

The current Labour Code is designed to attract foreign investors more than to protect workers' rights, although basic trade union rights are recognised. A foreign trade union representative was not allowed to re-enter the country. Union busting took place in Reemtsma Kyrgyzstan.

Trade union rights in law

All workers have the right to form and belong to trade unions, and the law protects union members from anti-union discrimination.

Pro-employer Labour Code: Under pressure from the international financial institutions and foreign investors, the Labour Code was amended in 2004 to reflect primarily the interests of employers. The government argued that the level of protection for workers was too high, making the economic environment of Kyrgyzstan unattractive for foreign investors. Workers' rights were reduced and unions' role in negotiations diminished.

Right to strike: Strikes can rarely be used as an instrument to defend workers' rights. Under section 78(3) of the Labour Code, strikes are prohibited in railway transport, public transport, civil aviation, communication services and enterprises that work round the clock, the stoppage of which would have hazardous consequences. The ILO's Committee of Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations (CEACR) has noted that as these services are not considered essential services according to the internationally recognised definition of the term, the government should amend its legislation so as to ensure that workers in the above services may exercise the right to strike.

Section 78(4) of the Labour Code provides that workers, following mediation and conciliation procedures provided for in the Code, could address the government of Kyrgyzstan to defend their legitimate rights and interests. The CEACR requested the government to review the legislation so as to ensure that collective disputes are settled by an independent body enjoying the confidence of the parties concerned and not by the government, but it has not done so thus far.

Trade union rights in practice and Violations in 2007

Background: Approximately 94 per cent of all workers belong to a union, and both private and public sector workers are union members. In June the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan (FPKg) became the associated member of ITUC. Human rights NGOs experience problems; for example, in September the financial police instructed local banks to give reports on financial operations of NGOs and micro-credit unions receiving funds from abroad.

Interference: Some officials of ministries, regional governments, and public prosecutors approached the leaders of FPKg affiliates with suggestions to vote a certain way during trade union elections, but the trade unionists voted against the "intruder" twice. The situation kept deteriorating at the time of writing, with the acting FPKg president getting suspended from work.

Employers infringements: Some employers impede the work of trade unions by refusing to let unionists enter the enterprise where their members are employed. In enterprises facing severe economic difficulties, management often threatens bankruptcy as a means of deterring trade union activity. Collective agreements are not always respected. Labour inspection is largely ineffective, and possible fines for trade union rights violations are merely token sums that do not promote compliance.

Unions taxed and fined: In some districts, taxes have been imposed on trade unions, although they are nonprofit organisations and thus not considered taxpayers. Tax inspectorates have, nevertheless, obliged them to register, and fines have been unlawfully imposed.

Union busting in Reemtsma Kyrgyzstan: Labour relations in the "Reemtsma Kyrgyzstan", a subsidiary of "Imperial Tobacco", have been strained for the past eight years. Following the difficult collective bargaining in the end of 2006, the management made decisive steps on destroying the IUF-affiliated Union of Food Workers. In the beginning of the year, workers were transferred to fixed-term contracts, and trade union members suffered severe pressure. V.Kuchin, the production and technical director of the company, invaded a trade union meeting and threatened to replace the trade union committee members with those "more willing to cooperate". The trade union deputy chairwoman Alla Kukushkina was placed under constant surveillance, was not allowed on the production site and was prevented from meeting with workers. By April, more militant activists were forced out of the trade union committee and then dismissed. The union was compelled to leave the Union of Food Workers, and the new trade union committee is essentially an employer-controlled body.

Solidarity Centre Representative expelled: On 2 September, Irene Stevenson, the director of the Bishkek Office of the American Centre for International Solidarity (an organisation of the US trade union centre AFL-CIO), was informed by the border control in the Manas airport that she would not be allowed to re-enter the country because of her "previous problems with Russia". Stevenson used to work with local trade unions on their capacity building. Neither Stevenson nor the international trade union movement were able to get an official explanation of what made this trade unionist a persona nongrata. The 2003 edition of this survey mentioned that Stevenson, then a Solidarity Center representative in Russia, had her visa cancelled as a "threat to the national security".

Copyright notice: © ITUC-CSI-IGB 2010

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