On 27-28 June IndustriALL Global Union held a workshop for Azerbaijani affiliates. 30 unionists took part in the event, among them trade union leaders, union officers and presidents of union locals.
It was the first workshop in Azerbaijan since the founding of IndustriALL, and held by Vadim Borisov from the Moscow regional office of IndustriALL Global Union. He spoke of IndustriALL’s recent history and its key activities. Affiliates made presentations about the social and economic conditions in their respective sectors.
Azerbaijan Republic Trade Union of Local Industries and Public Services Workers (ARTULIPSW) had to be “recovered from the ashes”, as one participant put it. After the liquidation of the Ministry of Public Services and the mass privatization, membership of the union drastically declined. Local authorities contributed to this by interfering in union activities. Membership fell from 120,000 to 22,500 workers. The union was so weakened that it had to let go of the regional structures and instead create a system of regional representatives.
The Federation of Metalworkers’ Unions raised the issues of scarce government contracts, old equipment, and bureaucratic obstacles to production at the plants. In general, the metal sector in Azerbaijan is on the rise, whereas mechanical engineering is declining. Engineering plants are relocated outside the cities. “They were quick to demolish them, and rebuilding takes longer”, Ali Gumbatov said. As a result, membership in the Federation fell from 50,000 to 10,000.
The union struggled with an employer refusing to transfer union dues. The Federation went to court and lost due to the lack of information about the dues. However, the union won in a court of higher jurisdiction, and the employer had to pay 40,000 euros and compensate legal costs for an additional 10,000 euros.
Dzhahangir Aliev, leader of the Oil and Gas Industry Workers Trade Union, noted the issue of restructuring which often leads to dismissals and decline in union membership. Outsourcing social services also contributes to this trend. After buying foreign assets State Oil Company essentially became a multinational. Operations outside Azerbaijan steal part of the profits, too.
Rafig Ildarov, president of the Power Stations and Electrotechnical Industry Workers’ Trade Union (ELEKTRO-IS), spoke of the problems at the Azteploenergo company. The administration interfered in union’s activities and forced the workers to sign statements on leaving ELEKTRO-IS. However, after the union fought back and its Central Committee interfered, the local was saved.
The participants of the workshop expressed the need for further IndustriALL activities:
- Workshops and “train the trainers” program
- Sector workshops with international participants
- Workshops on gender and youth issues
- A database with CBAs from different countries
- A database with training materials
- Training programs on DVDs
- Information on specific companies when they begin operations in Azerbaijan
- A more active energy sector in IndustriALL