(18 October 2019) EPSU affiliates in the constituency continue to stand by the health workers union in Kazakhstan. It and its leadership have come under pressure from attacks of the government supported confederation. Several violations of union rights have taken place. The union is further involved in a campaign to defend doctors that are targeted for medical mistakes and arrested without proper investigations. With a representative of the ILO Moscow office we discussed the process of making a complaint to the ILO Committee on the Application of Standards. While all countries in the region have signed the 8 fundamental ILO Conventions, the same is not true of the priority governance conventions. Having ratified the conventions though is not enough. It does not mean respect for them. Uzbekistan for many years had forced and child labour in its cotton pick season. With the new government and following pressure from new union leadership changes are being made. Like in Moldova and other countries, unions in Central Asia are confronting the US Chamber of Commerce representatives. They seek flexible labour markets and attack workers’ rights. The ILO is actively assisting to defend labour rights based on the ILO conventions. This includes the support for unions that oppose governments that are implementing exclusions for civil service and other public service workers very broadly. ILO convention 151, in this constituency implemented by Russia, assists in addressing how bargaining and negotiations should take place.
The unions commented on the new ILO convention 190. It forbids violence and harassment in the world of work and including gender-based violence and harassment. It is a convention that merits more attention. Others issues considered included the EPSU work program introduced by the General Secretary, nominations for the various EPSU committees and the election for chair of the constituency. Mikhail Kuzmenko, the President of the Russian Health workers trade union was re-elected. Unions reported on the developments in their countries with the Russian unions underlining the many challenges in the labour market and the impact of digitalization. As Russia has recently ratified the Paris agreement to reduce CO2 emissions concerns are raised of the implications for jobs. Just transition will become an important issue for the workers and the unions.
The meeting took place 16 and 17 October 2019, Moscow. Delegates from the unions in Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia and Tajikistan participated and we welcomed a representative of the Uzbek health workers union.