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Unions under threat in Kyrgyzstan

22 June, 2020While the ex-chair of Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan refuses to resign, the current leaders of FTUK are being prosecuted and a draft law depriving unions of independence is promoted in the parliament.

FTUK chair Mirbek Asanakunov was dismissed by the FTUK Council on 5 February 2020. The leadership passed to FTUK vice chair, Ryskul Babayeva. Since then, state authorities have increased pressure on current FTUK leaders and activists by conducting investigations and interrogations, searching their homes and initiating criminal procedures.

On 3 June, Babayeva was taken from hospital for police interrogation. On 10 June, the district court decided to place FTUK deputy chair Kanatbek Osmonov under house arrest for two months without the right to use telecommunications and internet, effectively suspending his trade union work. Other FTUK Council members fear they will be next.

The investigative measures are a result of false accusations from Asanakunov. Asanakunov is also using media to discredit unions and FTUK Council members. In contrast, several statements against Asanakunov are not considered by law enforcement agencies, showing the bias and pressure on trade unions in Kyrgyzstan. The FTUK work is paralyzed, as their bank accounts have been frozen, making impossible to pay wages to FTUK employees and carry out regular activities.

Asanakunov was elected FTUK chair in 2017, on false pretences. The FTUK Council repeatedly tried to dispute Asanakunov’s election, but meetings were disrupted by his supporters. The district court and the city court ruled that Asanakunov’s election as FTUK chair was invalid. But despite that, ex-chair is still trying to seize power illegally and has tried to return to the office several times.

In April 2019, Asanakunov’s wife, together with other members of parliament, initiated a draft law on trade unions that violates freedom of association by establishing absolute power of FTUK’s chair, complicating the procedure for electing and removing chair, and setting full personal, financial and information dependence and accountability of unions to FTUK.

The chair of Mining and Metallurgy Trade Union of Kyrgyzstan, Eldar Tadzhibayev, says:

“If this draft law is adopted, the principle of collegial decision-making, the system of checks and balances will disappear, board members will become completely dependent on the FTUK chair, who will not be responsible for anything. There will be rampant corruption, the unions’ property will be sold for a penny. Trade unions will weaken, as there will be mass withdrawal from unions. As a consequence, respect for workers’ rights will sharply deteriorate and the level of social and economic protection will decrease.”

During the last year, unions have protested against the draft law, which has passed two readings at parliament.

IndustriALL and the ITUC has urged the President of Kyrgyzstan to immediately act to stop the interference in internal union affairs by law enforcement agencies and any pressure and prosecution of FTUK Council members who decided to dismiss Asanakunov from his post and express their opinion against the adoption of the draft law on trade unions.

IndustriALL also urged that the draft law on trade unions violating core principles of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 ratified by Kyrgyzstan be withdrawn.