Tag Archives: labour rights

Georgian flour mill workers call off strike

JUNE 10 2021 (The Bulletin) — Workers at the Gulistani flour-milling plant in western Georgia have ended their 38-day strike after agreeing terms with management, said Georgia’s Trade Union of Agriculture and Industry. The trade union didn’t give any details of the terms and conditions reached. Georgia has been hit by a wave of industrial disputes this year.


— This story was published in issue 48 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on June 16 2021

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Uzbekistan is making progress on eradicating forced labour, says ILO

FEB. 2 2021 (The Bulletin) — The International Labour Organisation (ILO), part of the UN, said that Uzbekistan was continuing to make good progress in eradicating forced labour in its cotton sector. The statement is important for Uzbekistan as its government has tried to persuade Western companies to lift a ban on products made using Uzbek cotton, a key export. The ban was imposed during Islam Karimov’s time as president. He died in 2016.


— This story was first published in issue 471 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Kyrgyz authorities interferring with labour unions, says HRW

DEC. 22 2020 (The Bulletin) — The authorities in Kyrgyzstan are intimidating leaders of Kyrgyzstan’s worker unions and are trying to interfere with how they operate, the New York-based Human Rights Watch said. Unions in Kyrgyzstan are considered influential, with thousands of members. After three coups in 15 years, Kyrgyzstan has something of a reputation for indulging in street-level politics.


— This story was first published in issue 467 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2021

Georgian MPs to vote on improving workers’ rights

TBILISI/JUNE 21 (The Bulletin) — A draft bill set to be debated this week by MPs in Georgia gives the country the chance to set an example on how to improve workers’ rights across the region, activists said.

They said that if Georgia wanted to be taken seriously as an aspirant member of the European Union it had to improve safety and rights for workers.

In a statement, Giorgi Gogia, associate Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that a lack of oversight was putting thousands of workers at risk. “Parliament should do the right thing and adopt reforms urgently needed to stop abusive practices and improve workers’ health and safety,” she said.

Over the past few years, a few dozen people working on construction sites in Tbilisi have been killed. Dereguatation and a “profit first” approach to a construction boom triggered by an economic boom and a sharp rise in tourist numbers is putting lives at risk, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in its statement.

Across the Central Asia and South Caucasus region, deaths are reported on construction sites in most major cities. Labour unions are too weak to take on big business which is generally owned by powerful members of the elite who are linked closely with senior politicians.

In Georgia, HRW said that miners were working dangerous shifts lasting 12 hours for 15 days in a row and construction workers were having to cope with little or no safety protections.

“Years of deregulation have left Georgian workers without adequate protections,” HRW said. 

Georgia is the most Western-looking of the states in former Soviet Central Asia and the South Caucasus. It sees its future as a member of the EU and of NATO.

Debating potential reform to the labour laws last year, Dmitri Tskhitishvil, chair of the Georgian Parliament’s labour code commission, referenced obligations under a Georgia-EU Association Agreement, signed in 2016. 

“Much remains to be done,” he said. “There are still gross violations of workers’ rights and occupational hazards in different industries.”


— This story was first published in issue 451 of the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin on June 23 2020

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2020

Another construction workers dies in Tbilisi

TBILISI/July 16 (The Bulletin) — Another worker in Tbilisi died on a construction site, at least the 13th construction worker to die in Georgia this year.

Reports said that 16-year-old George Beshkenadze fell down the liftshaft of a 14-storey construction building that he had been working on in central Tbilisi.

Campaigners have said that safety measures on Georgian construction sites are notoriously slack. At least six construction workers in Tbilisi have already died this year on sites and in January, seven men were killed in their sleep at the apartment they shared in central Tbilisi by a carbon monoxide leak.

The authorities have said that they will also investigate how the company managing the site where Beshkenadze died was able to hire a teenager.
The law doesn’t ban companies from hiring 16-year-olds, but they are not allowed to do hard manual job
until they are 18.

— This story was first published in issue 417 of the weekly Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin

Human rights groups say forced labour still exists in Uzbekistan

FEB. 7 (The Conway Bulletin) — Two human rights groups said that forced labour in Uzbekistan was still a major problem despite assurances by the government that it had been eradicated in its cotton industry. Uzbek-German Forum for Human Rights and the U.S.-based Solidarity Center said in a report based on 260 interviews that teachers and other public sector workers were still expected to clean streets, plant trees and harvest wheat.

>This story was first published in issue 399 of The Conway Bulletin on Feb. 8 2019
Copyright The Conway Bulletin 2019

Mirziyoyev tells forced cotton labourers to go home

TASHKENT/SEPT. 22 (The Bulletin) — Uzbek President Shavkat Mirziyoyev ordered forced labourers working in the country’s cotton fields to return home, taking a step towards banning the practice altogether.

A Conway Bulletin correspondent said that the order for forced labourers — mainly teachers, medical staff and students — to leave the fields didn’t impact the wider mass mobilisation of the workforce to pick Uzbekistan’s cotton, a mobilisation that is characterised by low wages and poor conditions. 

The Conway Bulletin, through its Silk Road Intelligencer newswire, had been one of the first news agencies to the report the news. The next day, on Sept. 23, Uzbek PM Abdulla Aripov confirmed the order.

“It’s forever,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying. “Students should study, state employees should work.” 

The use of forced labour in Uzbekistan’s cotton fields has infuriated human rights groups who successfully lobbied for Western clothing companies to stop buying Uzbek cotton. 

In the last few years, though, Uzbek officials and officials from the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) have said that the use of forced labour has been cut back. 

Human rights groups have published evidence that dispute this.

Under Pres. Mirziyoyev, Uzbekistan has appeared to lurch towards a more free and open society, rejecting the authoritarian tendencies of Islam Karimov who ruled from the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union until his death in Sept. 2016.


— This story was first published in issue 344 of The Conway Bulletin, now called the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin, on Sept. 24 2017.

— Copyright the Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin 2017

Kazakh court convicts labour union leader

JULY 26 2017 (The Bulletin) — A court in Kazakhstan convicted labour union leader Larisa Kharkova of abuse of office, sentenced her to 400 hours of community service and banned her from holding public office for five years. The authorities in Kazakhstan have been cracking down on what they see as troublesome unions. Human Rights Watch said it was “another nail in the coffin of the independent trade union movement in Kazakhstan”.


Copyright ©Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 337, published on July 27 2017)

Ex-ILO official accuses WB of wilful ignorance on Uzbek forced labour

TASHKENT, JULY 11 2017 (The Bulletin) — In a letter to the FT, Elaine Fultz, a former director for the Central Asia office of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), accused the World Bank of turning a blind eye to forced labour at its projects in Uzbekistan.

She was writing after the World Bank refuted a report last month from Human Rights Watch that forced labour was being used on its projects. The World Bank rejected the accusations and said that the ILO had investigated forced labour accusations in 2016 and concluded that the practice had been stopped.

But Ms Fultz, head of the ILO’s Central Asia office from May 2007 until January 2009 and now a consultant at US-based JMF Research Associates, said that the ILO team that toured Uzbekistan had been too small, too inexperienced and also been accompanied by a group of trade union officials who acted as government minders.

“Under these conditions, the ILO’s failure to detect forced labour in World Bank project areas is hardly surprising,” she wrote. “So why did the World Bank commission the ILO to report on the state of forced labour in Uzbekistan? We must conclude that it did so because it knew precisely what sort of report it would get.”

The issue of forced labour has haunted the Uzbek cotton sector. Over the past seven years Western companies have boycotted garments made from Uzbek cotton because of its association with forced labour.

In its report of June 27, HRW said that the World Bank invested over $500m into Uzbek agriculture in 2015/16 and that it would be impossible for its projects not to be tainted by forced labour.

A World Bank spokesperson told media that it condoned any use of forced labour in Uzbekistan.

“We continue to voice our strong concerns on labour issues to the government of Uzbekistan and we have been working with the International Labour Organisation to put in place a robust monitoring programme,” she said.


Copyright ©Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 336, published on July 16 2017)


ILO criticises Kazakhstan

JUNE 12 2017 (The Bulletin) — The International Labour Organisation (ILO), a UN body, effectively accused Kazakhstan of ignoring its demands made 12 months ago to improve the rights of workers’ unions to operate. In a draft ILO committee memo, it said that the environment for unions to operate had worsened and not improved over the past year. Courts in Kazakhstan have disbanded the biggest trade union and imprisoned two union leaders for a series of unrelated offences. In 2016, unions organised a series of anti-government protests. The Kazakh government hasn’t responded to the ILO statement.


Copyright ©Central Asia & South Caucasus Bulletin — all rights reserved

(News report from Issue No. 333, published on June 19 2017)