Kazakhstan should immediately end legal moves to liquidate an independent trade union confederation, Human Rights Watch said today. An economic court in Shymkent, in southern Kazakhstan, on December 5, 2016, began reviewing a case brought by the Justice Ministry against the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan. Three other affiliated industrial trade unions face liquidation as well, the group added:
The move to liquidate the union confederation and affiliates representing medical workers, domestic workers, and mine workers, comes after authorities rejected repeated efforts by the union body to fully register its operations under a restrictive 2014 trade union law. The law imposes burdensome registration requirements on trade unions that are at odds with internationally protected workers’ rights to organize, Human Rights Watch said.
In 2015 and 2016, the International Labour Organization (ILO) at its annual conference strongly criticized Kazakhstan for its restrictions in the 2014 trade union law. In June 2015, the Committee on the Application of Standards, the highest-level decision-making body of the ILO, said that Kazakhstan should “amend the provisions of the Trade Union Law of 2014 consistent with the Convention.” Kazakhstan has not amended the law.
The law requires each national union to document that it has member organizations in over half the territories of Kazakhstan, in Almaty, the largest city, and in Astana, the capital. In a recently-released report “‘We Are Not the Enemy’: Violations of Workers Rights in Kazakhstan,” Human Rights Watch documented how the confederation and its affiliated industrial and local unions faced registration processing delays at the Justice Ministry or had their applications returned on technical grounds, such as for minor inconsistencies in translation, as they tried to comply with registration requirements.
“Kazakhstan should be allowing workers to organize freely in compliance with its international obligations, not trying to shut down a major workers’ organization,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Trampling on basic labor rights is both wrong in principle and in the signal it sends to Kazakhstan’s partners.”