13 March, 2014Newly submitted amendments to the criminal code would mean that directors and staff of strategically important enterprises could be imprisoned for up to 15 years for failure or stoppage of production.
At the end of February 2014, draft amendments to the criminal code were submitted to the parliament of Republic of Kyrgyzstan, according to which, "acts or omissions of the head or other staff members of enterprises of strategic importance that caused the stoppage of production at the plant or its individual structural subdivisions, shall be punished by imprisonment for 8 to 12 years. The same act that caused a large-scale damage or became the cause of irreparable damage to the ecological environment of the country shall be punished by imprisonment for 10 to 15 years".
If applied, this bill will affect not only leadership, but also rank-and-file employees of enterprises if they were to participate in a strike. As a result, workers from a wide range of enterprises determined by the government to be of strategic importance will be deprived of the right to hold a strike as a last resort to protect their legitimate labour rights. Currently the changes would affect workers of some fifty key industrial enterprises of Kyrgyzstan, and the list could be potentially a lot bigger.
IndustriALL Global Union, together with its affiliate Mining and Metallurgy Trade Union of Kyrgyzstan (MMTUK), believes, if adopted, these amendments will be in blatant violation of the international and constitutional norms according to which workers enjoy their right to strike.
In response, IndustriAll sent letters to the President of the Kyrgyz Republic and a number of high-ranking officials, expressing concern that such a bill is even being considered by the parliament of a civilized country such as Kyrgyzstan.
IndustriALL's letter says: "The submitted bill shows the incompetence and social irresponsibility of its authors as it closes down the legal channel for the resolution of social and labour related problems of workers. International experience proves that this always brings an accumulation of social tension, which later explodes and goes beyond the enterprise adopting an aggressive political stance. The growing and unsolved sense of dissatisfaction is always used by political forces interested in strengthening their influence and power through destabilization of the situation. It is especially dangerous considering the two revolutions in the Kyrgyz Republic over recent years".
According to Eldar Tadzhibayev, chairman of MMTUK, "Kyrgyzstan has been through upheavals with a change of president in 2005 and 2010. Investors remain in fear precisely due to this political instability. At enterprise level, everything is resolved normally, but now the bill represents a danger to social dialogue and would block legitimate channels of expression of complaints and grievances by employees, due to the inability to use a strike as a final method of economic pressure. This bill risks politicizing labour disputes which threatens social order much more than a strike or production stoppage at even the largest individual enterprises.”
IndustriALL continues to monitor the situation to prevent the collapse of the legal framework for the protection of workers' rights and interests in the Republic of Kyrgyzstan.