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Kyrgyzstan: Chinese oil company recognizes union

27 April, 2015A Chinese-owned oil company operating in Kyrgyzstan has finally recognized a local branch of the Mining and Metallurgy Trade Union of Kyrgyzstan (MMTUK) after bowing down to pressure from IndustriALL Global Union and its affiliates.

The MMTUK local union was created at the China Petrol Company Zhongda and duly registered with the authorities in December 2014. However, three months later, membership fees were still not being deducted from workers’ wages and collective bargaining had yet to begin despite the union's demands.

At the end of March, IndustriALL which counts MMTUK as one its affiliates, sent a letter to the general director of the company urging the management to stop violating trade union rights and to abide by national and international labour laws, including International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions No. 87 and No. 98.

IndustriALL demanded that management recognize the union and start collective bargaining negotiations. At the same time, IndustriALL also sent a letter to the Prime Minister of Kyrgyzstan expressing hope that the refinery would comply with the ILO Conventions ratified by the country and the legislation of Kyrgyzstan. IndustriALL also called on its affiliates to support the MMTUK local union by sending protest letters to the employer.

As a result of this campaign, the Ministry of Economy and the Government of Kyrgyzstan held meetings in early April to discuss the activity of the Chinese refinery and its violations of workers' rights, including the right to organize, payment of wages, and health and safety.

A meeting was held at the refinery between the MMTUK representatives and company management, at which a state labour inspector also participated. The management agreed to start withholding membership fees from workers' wages, and a separate office and an officer were allocated to the union. Within a week more than 250 membership applications were collected, and the local union expects to have a total of 300 members by 1 May.

Back in March an alternative union under management's control was established in the fire department of the refinery. However, 40 out of 70 workers of this department have now joined the MMTUK local union.

A draft collective agreement was sent to management on 20 April and is now being considered.

IndustriALL Global Union congratulates its affiliate MMTUK on the victory achieved with the help of international solidarity.