The international conference on ‘The Role of Trade Unions in Ensuring Citizens' Rights for Decent Working Conditions: the Experience of Uzbekistan’ in Tashkent has proved a successful presentation of accomplishments of Uzbekistan in this direction.
THE FORUM WAS ORGANIZED by the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan. It brought together the delegations of the International Trade Union Confederation, the International Labour Organization, heads of Uzbek missions in UNDP, EU, OSCE, UNICEF, Friedrich Ebert Foundation, members of the parliament, representatives of governmental and non-governmental organizations, international experts from Germany, France, Denmark, China, Russia, Lithuania, Moldova and other countries.
The Uzbek side detailed the guests on the state policy in the field of social and labor relations, creation of decent working conditions, active involvement of trade unions in this process with the focus on the protection of the socio-economic interests and labor rights of workers and their families.
Enshrined in the Constitution and laws, basic workers' rights fully comply with international labor standards, and in many respects even surpass them, noted the forum participants. There are specific benefits and guarantees in providing employment and creating appropriate conditions for workers.
In recent years, about 60% of expenditures of the national budget have been channeled to social sector. Large-scale measures on raising the level and quality of life and providing workers with decent salary and safe working conditions have been underway. The country has accrued a considerable experience in the development of social and labor institutions. Much has been done to streamline the labor law and pension system, and regulate the labor market.
Uzbekistan has been successfully extending social security system to fully meet the priorities. For instance, the state social insurance covers all employees. There are cash payments or services for sickness, maternity and old-age pension, disability and survivor benefits. Specific measures are being taken to stimulate the demand for labor, and create stable jobs.
The authorities have been effectively developing small businesses, farming, home-based work, handicrafts, services, supporting livestock production in private farms and establishment of agricultural companies in rural areas, concurrently eliminating all barriers to the development of private enterprise, and cutting the presence of the government in the economy and other areas. All these measures have been scaling-up employment, and mitigating the stratification of the population by income level.
Trade unions are essential in terms of guaranteeing citizens’ rights at work. Incorporating over six million members in 14 branch unions, the Federation of Trade Unions has been pursuing a system-based policy in this direction. They contribute to the effective implementation of the ILO Decent Work Agenda.
The General Agreement between the Government, the Council of Federation of Trade Unions and the Chamber of Commerce and Trade on Socio-Economic Issues for 2014-2016 ensures decent working conditions for different categories of workers. It is a pillar for 90 branch and 14 regional agreements across the country, and more than 100,000 of collective employment agreements at enterprises, organizations and institutions. They cover the issues of employment promotion, protection and safety, legal and social protection of workers, benefits for specific categories of workers, compliance with ILO conventions.
Compensation of employees is an important issue. The average monthly wage at state enterprises and budget organizations has been steadily increasing.
The law envisages the mandatory fringe benefits for working at night and on the weekends, holidays and overtime. Workers of 32 districts, cities and certain enterprises in desert, arid or mountainous terrains receive regional premium benefits.
Trade unions tend to increase workers’ income through local acts, as today they receive some additional income through collective agreements. The policy of equal pay for work of equal value, and timely payment has been pursued under the legislation, national and international standards.
Trade unions of Uzbekistan have been increasingly focusing on protecting occupational safety and health, prevention of industrial accidents and occupational diseases. In this direction, trade unions have been working closely with social partners. For example, 6,000 enterprises and organizations were monitored last year to ensure safe working conditions for employees.
This year, Uzbekistan has elaborated a Program of Action to Improve Working Conditions and Safety in Uzbekistan for 2015-2016. An interdepartmental working group will analyze and submit specific proposals on the prevention of occupational injuries.
Legal protection of workers is essential as well. Over the past three years, trade unions have considered dozens thousands of citizens’ appeals. About 68% of them related to labor legislation, 28% - illegal actions of employers. In 2014, trade unions submitted hundreds of petitions to the courts and employers, thus restoring the rights of over 1,100 citizens.
EMPLOYMENT AND LABOR MARKET ISSUES have been a priority in many countries. The forum participants expressed keen interest in the experience of Uzbekistan in this field.
Creation of appropriate conditions for full employment was in the spotlight. Approximately one million jobs were created in the republic in 2014, including 60% in rural areas.
Uzbekistan has a large and rapidly growing labor capacity. The number of able-bodied persons in the country makes up 18 million people, or 62% of the population. The labor force annually increases by 2%.
Uzbekistan has been successfully implementing the annual Job Creation Program, which is approved at a joint meeting of the Legislative Chamber and Senate of Oliy Majlis. It has been implemented thanks to several main thrusts.
First of all, the program is driven by the accelerated development of small business and private entrepreneurship and creation of a favorable business environment, which provides over 350,000 new jobs every year. Home-based work and family businesses allow employing more than 220,000 people. Poultry, livestock, fish farming, bee-keeping in farming enterprises, as well as the greenhouses provide 140,000 new jobs.
Nearly 500,000 graduates of vocational colleges come to the country’s labor market every year, so Uzbekistan is taking special measures for their employment, including their assignment to a specific company for internship and subsequent employment. Public organizations and trade unions have been actively involved in this process.
Trade unions assist in the implementation of the above-mentioned measures through maintaining public control over the procedure of signing labor contracts and provision of newly hired graduates with special clothing and personal protective equipment, briefing on labor protection and safety measures and providing moral and financial support. Trade unions see it highly relevant that newly employed graduates are introduced to the terms of the collective agreement and attached to a skilled professional.
Trade unions also provide public monitoring over the implementation of the Job Creation Program. In case of revealed shortcomings at a business entity or organization, trade unions make a submission to the relevant authorities and employers.
In the follow up, Uzbekistan intends to expand productive employment by increasing the number of new high-paying jobs in small business and private entrepreneurship sector, farming, social and market infrastructure.
The currently increasing employment of human resources is seen as a factor of growth in income and living standards.
THE ISSUE OF SOCIAL PARTNERSHIP in the workplace triggered an interesting dialogue at the conference. In Uzbekistan, social partnership has been part of the ideology of effective social dialogue between the government, trade unions and employers, which allows achieving a balance of interests of all three parties on the basis of cooperation.
A strong social policy has paved the way for the development of new trend of social partnership of the state with representatives of all NGOs through the joint development and implementation of state social programs.
In September 2014, Uzbekistan adopted the Law ‘On social partnership’, which stipulates the interaction of state bodies with NGOs and other civil society institutions in the development and implementation of the socio-economic development programs. It chiefly focuses on social protection, support and increase of social involvement of the population.
The above-mentioned General Agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers, the Council of Federation of Trade Unions and the Chamber of Commerce and trade is deemed the major document of social partnership in the labor sector at the national level. The document triggers a range of measures to ensure the creation of decent working conditions for different categories of workers. Under the agreement, the parties may enter into partnership relations at all levels with regard to streamlining legislation in labor, employment programs, prevention of injuries and diseases, social protection of employees, and others.
The general agreement has empowered signing of industry-specific, territorial agreements, and collective bargaining agreements at companies, organizations and institutions. Collective contractual relationships cover more than 98% of legal entities, employing trade union members in Uzbekistan. The rate is seen high both at the national level and in the international scale. They attach importance to social security, health and safety, protection of the corresponding rights, improvement of health of employees and their families. All collective bargaining acts comprise the elements like promotion of employment, decent wages, labor safety and security, legal and social protection of workers, benefits for certain categories of workers, compliance with ILO conventions.
5,500 young families received interest-free loans, more than 2,800 students paid contracts for education, about 190,000 workers improved their health at sanatoriums and health resorts last year through collective contracts and agreements. Under the Year of Attention and Care for the Senior Generation, these acts empower financial assistance to older workers, provide valuable retirement gifts, targeted support for retired employees of enterprises, and health improvement of labor veterans on the preferential basis.
Collective agreements at all levels are featured by the availability of sections and measures on strengthening social protection and ensuring employees’ rights for decent working conditions based on social partnership.
ALONG WITH PLENARY SESSIONS, the conference was held in four sections: ‘Promoting international labor standards and streamlining national legislation for implementation of the fundamental rights at work’, ‘Ensuring favorable and safe working conditions and expanding social protection’, ‘Enhancing the opportunities for decent employment and income’, ‘Social control and social partnership in the context of guaranteeing the rights to decent working conditions’.
The forum broadly demonstrated international experience in terms of creation of decent working conditions. First of all, representatives of international organizations clarified the idea itself, which is based on productive employment, rights at a workplace, social protection and social dialogue.
In their reports foreign participants brought up such points as ‘The role and place of trade unions in the implementation of social model in Denmark’, ‘Salaries and incentives in Germany’, ‘The experience of France in ensuring salary equality’, ‘National Tripartite Social Dialogue in Azerbaijan’, and others.
Conference participants highly commended the experience of Uzbekistan in ensuring labor rights of citizens, and effective involvement of trade unions in this process.
In the wake of the forum the participants approved the recommendations and proposals for the extension of the experience of Uzbekistan in creation of decent working conditions in companies and organizations, further streamlining of the activity of trade unions and partner organizations in this direction, the institutionalization of social dialogue, and establishment of public control.
As part of the international conference foreign guests were introduced to the specifics of trade unions at enterprises and institutions of the country, and visited historical cities of Samarkand and Khiva.
The Council of Federation of Trade Unions held a panel discussion on the occasion of the World Labor Protection Day.
As noted at the event, labor protection ranks among the priorities of trade union organizations of the country. Labor protection services have been established under territorial and industry specific trade union organizations to prevent employment injuries and occupational diseases, and strengthen employers' liability in this regard.
Uzbekistan has made some progress in ensuring the observation of sanitary rules in workers’ associations, continuous operation of social facilities through collective agreements. Employees are provided with protective clothing and footwear, personal protective equipment, preventive nutrition.
The speakers pointed out that the cooperation of trade unions with employers, government organizations and NGOs has been contributing to strengthening of labor protection. The streamlined legal framework in the field has provided opportunities for addressing many issues through social partnership.
The panelists discussed the ways of enhancing prevention and occupational safety. They shared the related national and international experience.
The meetings on the occasion of the World Labor Protection Day were held in Karakalpakstan, regions and the Tashkent city, in the primary trade union organizations of the republic.