The strengthening of social dialogue and collective bargaining during the Coronavirus pandemic was the main theme of the webinar organized by the ILO Workers’ Relations Office (ACTRAV) for trade union organizations in Eastern Europe and Central Asia.

In a lively discussion format, the participants exchanged views on the use of social dialogue by trade unions to find solutions to the crisis.

Sergius Glovackas, head of the Eastern Europe and Central Asia division of the ILO workers ‘Bureau, Gocha Alexandria, chief specialist on workers’ activities, the ILO Bureau for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, and Magnus Berge, chief specialist on workers ‘ activities, the ILO Bureau for Central and Eastern Europe, made a number of recommendations for building an effective social dialogue between representatives of governments, workers and employers.

International experts noted the importance of social dialogue in achieving collective solutions that take into account the needs of enterprises and employees, as well as ensuring stability in society.

During the exchange of experience, the participants were interested in the initiatives of the Federation of trade unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Today, collective agreements are concluded at 98 percent of enterprises where the primary trade Union organizations of the FPRC operate.

Gulnara Zhumageldieva, Deputy Chairman of the FPRC, noted that trade unions are the most interested and consistent party to social partnership, the initiator of almost all negotiations on the conclusion of agreements and collective agreements. The Deputy Chairman of the FPRC shared with foreign colleagues information about the activities of trade unions in Kazakhstan in the context of the crisis and pandemic.

From the very beginning of the declaration of a state of emergency in the country and the further extension of the quarantine, the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan has set itself the task of overcoming the crisis, where the protection of workers’ rights is the main focus. We have repeatedly spoken to social partners in which we have raised the most pressing social-labor issues», – stressed Gulnar Zhumagyeldiev.

In her presentation, she described the initiatives of the Federation of Trade Unions to provide additional social benefits and guarantees to health workers involved in anti-epidemic activities, to make them emergency workers during the emergency period, as well as proposals for the proper realization of the right to salary increments for employees of libraries and medical workers of educational organizations and support for the largest domestic goods producers.

Gulnara Jumageldieva stressed that no workers’ appeals are left without trade union support, including informally employed categories of workers not covered by trade union membership, who also seek assistance from the Federation of Trade Unions and its member organizations.

With regard to social partnership, the Deputy Chairperson of the National Solidarity Fund said that this year the General Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Kazakhstan was coming to an end, National workers’ associations and national employers’ associations for 2018 – 2020. According to her, the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan has initiated the creation of a working group comprising all national trade union associations in order to jointly develop consolidated approaches to ensuring the protection of workers’ labour rights.

«Within the framework of a single working group, the trade unions of Kazakhstan propose to enshrine in the draft of the new General Agreement norms on the protection of workers’ rights, including informal employment of the population, as well as the new format of social partnership», added Gulnar Zhumagheldiev.

The TOP Chairman of the Pavlodar Oblast, Dinara Aitjanova, spoke about the consolidated work of the social partners during the crisis period.

«The pandemic has exacerbated many problems, but significantly strengthened the social partnership of employers and trade union organizations», – emphasized the Chairman of the Professional Center.

She said that since the beginning of the pandemic, employers and trade unions had worked together to ensure safe working conditions.

At strategic facilities providing vital activity of the region works from 6,000 to 10,000 employees who cannot be transferred to remote working mode. Together with the employers, the unions bought thermal imaging devices, provided them with personal protection means, worked on the regulation of working time, etc. Nobody transferred obligations to each other», – noted Dinar Aitjanov.

The President of the Centre described measures to maintain workers’ wages, to open provincial offices and to restore the working capacity of citizens who had been disabled.

“We had cases. Many employers have kept employees ‘ wages during their illness. Some trade unions have already made changes to collective agreements to increase additional payments for disability lists. Today, there is a question of the need to rehabilitate those who have been ill. The Federation of trade unions and its member organizations are taking steps in this direction. They received financial assistance and were given vouchers for health resorts. We need to restore the ability to work of our employees, — added Dinara Aitzhanova.

International experts noted the progressive nature of the measures taken by trade unions in Kazakhstan together with social partners.

They called the practice of rehabilitation of sick workers unprecedented.

«Collective bargaining as a form of social dialogue benefits the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan not only in a trilateral but also bilaterally. You’re getting a lot of results. Rehab of sick workers is a new direction. So far, the union’s mission has been to prevent the risk of infection and help you recover. You’re helping you recover – that’s a serious topic. It is good that in this respect you have reached a complete agreement with employers. This is very indicative», – added Gocha Alexandria.

As a result of the webinar, participants committed themselves to promoting social dialogue as an effective response to the crisis by preserving employment, protecting workers’ health and safety at work and ensuring social and labour security for workers.