Uzbekistan has been effectively practicing the principle ‘From a strong state to a strong civil society’, which has been a guideline for ensuring human rights and interests, creation of favorable conditions for implementation of people’s potential, expansion of powers of various civil institutions.
Trade unions rank among the most popular civil institutions. The ‘Concept of further enhancement of democratic reforms and building of civil society in the country’ envisages the further strengthening of their role in reformation and modernization of all spheres of society.
Almost the entire country’s working population is unionized. Trade unions are most popular public associations to protect socio-economic and labor rights of workers, as well as provide comprehensive support to those in need of it. In the context of universally established market laws, people have been resting their aspirations on trade unions in terms of social support, addressing them for help when their labor rights are violated.
In recent years, trade unions have significantly streamlined their activities taking into account the proposals of primary trade union organizations and based on the requirements of the time. That has resulted in an optimized and effective system that strengthens the protection of social and economic interests of workers. The scope of activities of primary organizations and their economic opportunities have been expanded. Young and initiative professionals have been involved in all units of trade union organizations. A talent pool of well-trained and qualified professionals has been built.
Currently, more than 19,000 representatives of primary trade union organizations are incorporated in administrative bodies of enterprises and institutions, taking active part in decision-making with regard to workers’ interests.
The protection of socio-economic interests of workers has been strengthened on the basis of social partnership. There is a General Agreement between the Cabinet of Ministers, the Council of Federation of Trade Unions and the Chamber of Commerce and Trade of Uzbekistan on Socio-Economic Issues for 2014-2016.
The document has been a guideline for a system-based work on the development of effective forms of employment, strengthening of public control over the implementation of legislation in the field of occupational safety and health, moral and financial support for socially vulnerable population strata, promoting the development and execution of government programs.
95 sectoral and 14 regional agreements have been functioning in the country on the basis of the General Agreement, and over 113,000 collective agreements are effective directly at enterprises, organizations and institutions. They cover the promotion of employment, security and safety, legal and social protection of workers, benefits for specific categories of workers, compliance with the ILO conventions.
A social component of collective agreements has been reinforced in recent years. The local acts have been added with completely new directions like strengthening the protection of social and economic interests of women and the youth. Now, collective agreements settle such relevant issues like development of the labor market and ensuring of employment. They have also become a significant factor for increasing workers’ incomes. An average of 314,000 soums was invested in the protection of interests of one employee under a collective agreement in 2010, while in 2015 the figure balanced between 2 and 7 million soums.
The growing number of small businesses and private enterprises entails the need in the protection of labor, socio-economic and legal interests of workers in the sector. Over the past five years trade unions provided support to over 494,000 employees from 57,000 organizations. More than 162,100 employees of 30,000 small businesses and private enterprises, family enterprises and joint ventures joined trade unions during 2015 alone. Their social and economic protection is ensured through collective agreements. They are the employees of 534 agricultural companies, 867 family businesses, more than 12,500 private entrepreneurs, as well as over 50 joint ventures with the share of foreign investments.
Collective agreements were added with the liability of the parties for infringement of workers’ rights under the employment relationships. 12,000 enterprises and organizations were monitored in 2011-2015. Home-based workers have been ensured with social protection.
Social protection of workers and their families has been strengthened through agreements in the framework of socially oriented state programs. War and labor front veterans, people with disabilities, large families and young families, women and young people in rural areas, lonely elderly and pensioners have been fully supported, and provided with the opportunity for improving health and rest.
PROTECTING WORKERS’ RIGHTS
The protection of people’s interests at work is a priority direction of trade unions. On this background, they have been consistently enhancing public control, organizing free legal advice, hotlines and public receptions for citizens under the Federation of Trade Unions, national councils of trade unions, and territorial associations of trade union organizations. There is a Legal Clinic of Federation of Trade Unions.
Certain measures have been taken to advance the legal culture and knowledge of national and international labor standards for workers of various fields, young people and women. With this purpose, the curricula of secondary and higher educational institutions, as well as advanced training centers have been enriched with specialized courses on social and labor relations.
The Federation of Trade Unions has been directly involved in the development of over 100 legal acts on social and labor relations. It submitted proposals on the draft laws on labor protection in new edition, on social services for the elderly, people with disabilities and other categories of the population, and other documents, as well as presented expert opinions on 77 drafts of regulatory acts on labor protection.
In order to better explain their nature and importance, the Federation involved partners in the preparation and publishing of collections on ‘Innovations in labor legislation’, ‘Recommendations on the appointment of commissions on individual labor-related disputes’.
Over 57,000 citizens’ appeals have been considered over the past five years, and 51,000 have been settled positively. Trade union organizations filed 361 lawsuits in the courts, made about 2,000 submissions to employers, and thereby restored the rights of more than 5,300 people.
As of 2012, more than 7,600 citizens have received free legal help on social and labor relations through trade union hotlines. The Legal Clinic under the Federation of Trade Unions has harmoniously combined the legal protection with educational practice, significantly expanded the scale of free legal services, as well as ensured practical training of work with citizens for future lawyers.
In order to promote employment, trade union organizations have been exercising public control over the creation of new jobs under a program, which was approved by the joint decision of the Legislative Chamber and the Senate of Oliy Majlis, as well as under territorial programs on ensuring employment and support for business. They have proved the accuracy of creation of new jobs at 20,500 business entities. They also monitored processing of employment contracts with the newly recruited employees and record book management.
Trade unions have been also maintaining a system-based monitoring of creation of new jobs at farms and small businesses. A section of collective agreements was supplemented by special benefits for graduates of vocational colleges as part of promoting their employment.
Territorial trade union organizations have been actively involved in the development of the programs that determine the minimal number of quotas on jobs for the persons who are not capable of competing in the labor market. In 2013-2015, the quoted vacancied were occupied by 219,000 socially vulnerable persons. Decent and safe working conditions in the newly created workplaces have been ensured in accordance with specific recommendations that were developed by the Council of Federation of Trade Unions jointly with government agencies and local employers. Employers and workers have been introduced in specifics of compliance with labor laws.
Trade unions see it important to organize new jobs at their own expense. Workplaces have been created in many regions of the country, providing employment to college graduates and women.
Much attention has been paid to the prevention of occupational accidents and diseases. Attention of employers and employees has been repeatedly drawn to this issue, the compliance with existing legal acts is subject to public control. Over the last five years, the number of labor protective measures in collective agreements has increased by almost 84% against 2011. The fact of fulfillment of 96.5% of scheduled actions in local acts is a big progress.
Active work of primary organizations and authorized entities on labor protection has ensured instructional briefings for each newly hired employee at enterprises and organizations. The amount of funds allocated for this purpose by employers through collective agreements has increased remarkably. For instance, the amount of funds for implementation of labor protection-related provisions of collective agreements has increased by 1.5 times last year against 2011, and amounted to 133.8 billion soums. 80-85% of workers in various industries are now covered with annual primary and periodic medical examinations.
Approved by trade unions, the Program of Action on Improvement of Working Conditions and Occupational Safety for 2015-2016 has provided an opportunity to significantly improve the work in this direction. An interdepartmental working group under the Council of Federation of Trade Unions ensures its implementation in cooperation with the relevant ministries and departments. The national competition on ‘The best public control of labor protection’ has helped to further improve the quality and effectiveness of the work pursued by employers and trade union organizations in this direction.
TRADE UNIONS AND YOUTH
The Federation of Trade Unions instituted a Youth Council in order to protect the labor rights and socio-economic interests of youth and develop their spiritual outlook. 2.5 million young men and women were registered as trade union members in 2011, while in 2015 this figure reached 3 million. Trade union bodies of all levels have been purposefully working on increasing the representation of young people. As a result, 15% of primary trade union organizations are chaired by young people under 30, over 33% of chairmen of district and municipal trade union organizations are under 40 years old.
Trade unions introduced new items and sections on strengthening the protection of social and economic interests of youth into collective contracts and agreements. For instance, more than 15,000 young families received interest-free loans for the purchase of durable goods and housing construction during the reporting period. Contracts of 12,500 students of higher education institutions were partially paid. 721 employees received 2.795 billion soums of interest-free loans due to call-up to military service of mobilization reserve in 2015. More than 7,000 young workers acquired new skills. Boys and girls are subject to financial assistance in case if they undergone practical training at enterprises, and entered a job after graduation with honors from vocational colleges.
PRIORITY FOR WOMEN’S INTERESTS
Protection of social and economic interests of women has always been in the spotlight of the Federation of Trade Unions. Collective agreements were supplemented by the section ‘Streamlining women’s labor. Additional benefits and guarantees for women and persons engaged in family responsibilities’.
Owing to the measures taken, 38,000 young mothers with 2-3 year old children received financial assistance. The working week was shortened by 1 hour with full pay for more than 26,500 women who work at enterprises and organizations of non-state ownership. Maternity leave was extended for 1,672 young women. There is a public control over the creation of reserve jobs for single women and women with many children, college graduates and women approaching retirement age.
Based on social partnership, trade unions have taken measures on protection of labor rights and interests of the women who are engaged in home-based work, family businesses and small businesses. Now they can take a full advantage of their benefits and guarantees as specified in the collective agreement. In order to enhance quality and efficiency of work in this field, the Federation of Trade Unions instituted a Council of Women and working commissions on women’s issues under sectoral and territorial trade union organizations. They are entrusted with public control over the creation of decent and safe working conditions for women at enterprises, organizations and institutions, regardless of the form of ownership. New benefits for the fair sex were introduced upon the examination of collective agreements.
Rehabilitation and recreation
Benefits for rehabilitation of workers and their families have been expanded over the past five years. Previously, members of trade unions could take advantage of preferential tickets only once every five years, while since 2011 the opportunity of obtaining preferential tickets was available every three years, and every two years since 2013. Moreover, they pay only 45% of the cost. Close relatives of employees can improve their health on preferential basis by means of membership fees.
Over the past period, sanatoriums have strengthened their logistical capacity, carried out construction and repair works. Health resorts have been equipped with modern medical equipment. Two new health resorts and two rest houses were built. Quality and effectiveness of services have been consequently improved.
More than 100,000 people improve their health at trade union sanatoriums every year, and more than 500,000 people have recuperated for the last five years. Nearly 200,000 of them have improved their health by preferential and free tickets. There are departments for veterans of war and labor front. The gerontological field has been well developed.
In 2012, the Federation of Trade Unions initiated the ‘Concept for rest and rehabilitation of children in camps’, and established a permanent national coordination group at the government level. 269,000 boys and girls improved their health in 2011, while in 2015 the index reached 301,000.
Nearly 1.43 million boys and girls have had wonderful recreation in summer camps over the past five years. 280,000 of them are children from socially vulnerable families, Mekhribonlik mercy homes, the Aral Sea region, and Saryosiyo and Uzun districts of Surkhandarya region. They had a rest on a preferential basis and free of charge in the best children's camps of the country.
A targeted program on construction, reconstruction and overhaul of children's health camps has been underway. The logistical capacity of 50 of them is strengthened every year under the program. 9 new camps have been built, 27 camps were reconstructed and 45 overhauled over the last three years.