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Kyrgyzstan: Flash mob protest against slave labour code

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3 July, 2015A flash mob of around 50 union activists stood in silence in front the Ministry of Economy of Kyrgyzstan on 2 July brandishing posters declaring: “I am against the Slave Labour Code”.

The action in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek was in protest at proposed amendments to the Labour Code, which would worsen workers’ rights and social guarantees dramatically.

On 18 June 2015, the Government of Kyrgyzstan presented a bill on the amendments to the Labour Code for public debate. The trade unions of Kyrgyzstan are insisting the legislative draft is withdrawn, as it contradicts the International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 158 and Recommendation No. 166 on termination of employment.

According to the bill, a new chapter 26a will be added to the Labour Code to regulate labour conditions of workers employed by businesses. Such workers make more than 90 per cent of the total workforce in Kyrgyzstan; therefore, these amendments will affect the majority of working people.

The government initiated the amendments to the labour legislation under the pretext of ensuring balance between the rights of employers and workers, as well as creating favourable conditions for business.

However, such labour law reform will allow the employers to sign temporary employment contracts without any restrictions currently provided by the Labour Code. The employers will also get an opportunity to dismiss workers on any grounds; the reasons just have to be mentioned in the employment contract.

“Any company engaged in a business activity will be legally exempted from the obligation to pay extra for the work during weekends and days off, for overtime and night work. The infringement of the workers’ rights will also affect guarantees and compensations for the job loss. The term to submit a claim for collection of unpaid salary will be limited, while the existing Labour Code does not specify any limitation of action period for such claims,” said Eldar Tadzhibaev, Chairman of the Mining and Metallurgy Trade Union of Kyrgyzstan (MMTUK), which is affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.

MMTUK is demanding that the Ministry of Economy and the Government of Kyrgyzstan withdraw the bill and create a working group on the proposed amendments ensuring the principles of social partnership, and equal participation by all parties.