Dear participants of the Forum!
Dear Colleagues, friends!
Today we are at the beginning of a new historical period – the fourth decade of independent Kazakhstan. The format of today’s forum of trade union leaders can also be called historical.
Since gaining sovereignty, the Federation of Trade Unions has become the largest public organization, uniting about 2 million workers in its ranks from more than 16 thousand primary trade union organizations.
Unity, justice, respect for the man of work – the algorithm of our actions. Respect for a working person, protection of his rights and interests is the main principle of the activities of our trade union organizations, reflected in the strategy of the Federation of Trade Unions, adopted at the 26th Congress. We have made a number of sure of its relevance and timeliness and promote our values on all platforms.
Today, on the day of our professional holiday – the Day of Trade Unions, we have gathered at the Solidarity Forum to answer questions about the future development of the Federation of Trade Unions, to take a practical step towards further strengthening our association, strengthening trade union unity and solidarity.
At the origins of the creation of the Federation of Trade Unions in 1990 were branch trade unions and territorial trade unions. By joining forces in this difficult, crucial period for the trade union movement, we were able to create our own center – the Federation of Trade Unions. Trade union organizations and members of the trade union were able to save.
We often criticize ourselves. Why? Because we know more about our internal problems than all our opponents combined. But for self-criticism, we must not forget about what our achievements are. About what we have achieved in recent years. What thousands of trade union activists put their strength and soul into.
I want to focus on some points.
If we talk about the regulatory regulation of the level of salaries, then in recent years trade unions have made a significant contribution to the growth of citizens’ incomes. The greatest achievements during this period are noted precisely in those areas where the state listened to the opinion of trade unions, for example, in terms of a gradual increase in the minimum wage, the development of a methodology for calculating the minimum wage. Social partnership has significantly advanced in the regions. The President supported us, and we achieved this together. We insisted on the inclusion in the General Agreement for 2021-2023 of a number of norms that improve the situation of workers. It was possible to achieve unity and consolidation of the actions of the member organizations. International cooperation has been established, the Council of Trade Unions of Central Asian Countries has been established and operates.
Trade unions today objectively assess the dynamics of the development of socio-economic relations in Kazakhstan. Assess the actions of employers, government agencies, and political parties. They carry out a qualitative rethinking of their work. And, based on this assessment, they make their decisions collectively – in which direction to move further? With whom to go together? Who to support and who to fight? What needs to be changed in trade unions to make them more effective?
But before answering all these questions, we need to answer the main question once again: who or what are trade unions obliged to work for? The answer is unequivocal. The Federation of Trade Unions and its member organizations should work for a qualitative improvement in the living standards of trade union members. By joining a trade union, a person pays a fee not for myths about paradise life. If an employee’s salary increases, if his rights are protected, if he has a decent and safe workplace, then the union really works.
However, we need more than just a salary increase. We need a salary increase that can provide them and their families with a decent standard of living. Everyone sitting in this room is perfectly familiar with the demagogy, according to which an employee receives a meager increase to a low salary once a year, and the employer doubles his fortune during this time. We are not satisfied with this version of the social contract and it needs to be changed.
Our goal is to actively influence the redistribution of public wealth in the interests of workers – members of trade unions, that is, in the interests of the stable development of society and its democratic institutions, the dynamic development of a fair Kazakhstan.
Income inequality and poverty are one of the main obstacles to the economic development of Kazakhstan. When citizens do not have “free money”, they cannot buy goods and services. At the same time, the lack of own funds forces the population to take out loans. Excessive growth of the credit burden on citizens leads to an increase in social tension.
We support the decision of the Head of State to introduce a luxury tax as an additional source of financing social spending. This is not only an economic necessity, but also an element of a fair Kazakhstan. Simply put, if the rich do not want a social explosion, let them share with the less affluent strata of society and pay for stability!
Therefore, the restoration of social justice in our country is the main challenge facing trade unions today.
The key guidelines of the Federation of Trade Unions are the formation of a fair economy and the improvement of the welfare of workers and their families.
The three main social and labor priorities are the creation of jobs, increasing incomes of the population and the development of social partnership.
Today, it is important to prevent an even greater decline in income and an increase in poverty among the working population and pensioners.
The most important task to increase the real content of wages is the establishment of indexation, which should be carried out at least once a year and be proactive. We consider it necessary to seek the definition and establishment in the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan of the concept of wage indexation; a clear legislative norm on the obligation of employers to index wages; the establishment of the basic principles of wage indexation related to its frequency and criteria.
The Federation of Trade Unions also considers it unacceptable to maintain wage arrears: employees should receive payment for work already done, regardless of the financial condition of the employer. We propose to ratify the 173 ILO Convention “On the Protection of Workers’ Claims in the Event of an Entrepreneur’s Insolvency” in full, not only by establishing a priority order for the payment of wages, but also through insurance of employees against loss of earnings due to the insolvency or bankruptcy of the employer. We also propose to include in the Labor Code the right of an employee to suspend work in the event of a delay in wages.
If we want to develop production within the country, then the priority should be the skilled workforce, not the self-employed and small businesses. Qualified workers with full-fledged social and labor rights will be able to establish import substitution and ensure the growth of our economy. The country needs stable employment based on labor relations.
The situation with labor protection at enterprises remains a serious problem. We believe that mechanisms for re-equipment and modernization of fixed assets and technological equipment should be developed in the near future. Every employer should realize that healthy and safe working conditions in the workplace is a high competitive ability of the enterprise.
There is no choice here. A trade union member must have a safe working space. If employers continue to sabotage their creation, trade unions will seek the adoption of the most severe sanctions and a qualitative increase in the amount of compensation for injuries and injuries. Nothing else is given here. We have already proposed to the Government to move from mixed liability for accidents to international standards.
Today, in the conditions of global turbulence, we must solve very serious tasks, which is impossible without the solidarity of citizens, business and the state within the country. In the most difficult moments for the country, we found support in unity. The mechanism of unity in the labor sphere has long been known – it is a social partnership. However, this mechanism is not always used.
For example, in practice, the position of the business has not changed much. Businessmen still seek to exploit workers by saving on their salaries. A full-fledged republican association of employers has not yet been formed.
In such a situation, the role of the state as an arbitrator between business and trade unions should qualitatively increase. We consider it necessary to create a separate Ministry of Labor, which is obliged to solve strategic tasks for the coordination and effective management of the labor market and act as a competent and responsible partner of trade unions on the part of the state.
Social partnership is a fundamental choice of trade unions. But we do not understand social partnership as a process of endless and fruitless negotiations for employees. Social partnership should produce tangible results. It is according to him that trade unions evaluate the effectiveness of their actions. If there is no result, then you need to move on to more potent means of struggle.
Dear Forum members!
Only strong trade unions will be able to fulfill all the designated tasks and cope with the challenges we face. The main thing is the strengthening of trade union structures, their clear interaction, from the primary to the Federation as a whole. There are achievements, there is stagnation.
In various historical fractures, the Federation of Trade Unions was able to survive, survive and develop as the largest republican union of trade unions largely due to the organizational structure based on vertical and horizontal ties. I once again specifically state that the basis of the Federation is made up of Industry trade unions. And territorial unions of trade unions are the connecting links at every level of work.
The further effectiveness of the Federation’s activities will depend on how strong the vertical will be – Branch trade unions that protect the sectoral interests of their members, and how strong the horizontal will be – territorial unions of trade unions that coordinate the activities of branches of branch trade unions.
All the links of this system are closely related to each other, the weakening of any link or mutual connections will inevitably lead to the weakening of the entire system. Discussing the problem of organizational strengthening of the FTURK, we came to a consensus at the Congress that the future of the trade union movement lies in strong Branch trade unions united at the republican level by the Federation of Trade Unions, and at the regional level by territorial unions of trade unions implementing their functions in the regions of Kazakhstan.
I would like to focus your attention on one more issue – the interaction of the Federation’s member organizations. The entire practice of trade union work shows that the effectiveness of trade union organizations directly depends on the coordination of actions of Industry trade unions and TOP managers on such priority issues as the conclusion and implementation of collective agreements and agreements, the involvement of employees in the ranks of trade unions, the prevention and resolution of labor conflicts, and other organizational, personnel and financial issues. Not to argue who is more important, not to defend our narrow interests, but to unite efforts in solving the tasks facing us – this is the basis of trade union unity and solidarity, the basis for successfully solving these tasks.
A necessary condition for improving the efficiency of the Federation’s activities, of course, is to ensure compliance with the requirements of the Federation’s Charter and decisions taken by the collegial bodies of the FTURK. I remind you that this is the area of responsibility of the heads of member organizations. In cases of non-compliance by a member organization with the Charter of the FTURK, decisions of the collegial bodies of the Federation, non-payment of membership fees, strict measures must henceforth be taken in accordance with the Charter of the Federation. It should be understood that people and structures that are engaged in sabotage of decisions of elected bodies within trade unions do not comply with the requirements of the Charter, work against trade unions. They are not with us, but with our opponents – consciously or unconsciously.
Our forum is taking place at a difficult time. Today, the number of attacks on the rights of trade union organizations has increased in the country. In many cases, this was accompanied by attempts to take control of the freedom of action of trade unions. In this regard, the Federation of Trade Unions has repeatedly drawn attention to the need to liberalize strike legislation, which in our country is seriously different from world practice. Now it is almost impossible to hold a legal strike, so we will continue to seek to shorten the terms of conciliation procedures. We don’t need a strike for the sake of a strike. But if such a form of struggle is recognized as legitimate throughout the civilized world and in Kazakh law, then it should be present in the TC not only in words.
We will also use all the legal protection mechanism available to us – both inside the country and, if necessary, outside it. This is the challenge we face. We have created a Legal clinic and it really works. We will also continue to strengthen legal services.
A significant youth structure has been built in the Federation of Trade Unions today. Therefore, it is time to direct it to concrete trade union affairs – to fight for wage growth, for improving the working conditions of employees, for improving the efficiency of the entire trade union vertical. Young trade union leaders are our human resources, which need to be given the right direction and the necessary tools. At the same time, young professional leaders should understand that no one will lead them by the hand. It is necessary to independently show your personal effectiveness and usefulness of the trade union work performed. To seek the support of trade union organizations, to run for deputies of legislative assemblies at various levels and to defend trade union interests.
The development of all the areas of work I have listed is impossible without the unity and solidarity of trade unions at all levels. And it’s not for nothing that today’s meeting is called a Solidarity Forum.
I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to our colleagues and friends from international organizations and national trade union centers. Special thanks to our guest Goce Alexandria for participating in our Forum.
The struggle for social justice, for improving the living standards of workers is a common task of trade unions in different countries. Trade unions are an international organization in their spirit and meaning. The FTURK will continue to actively cooperate with the International Labor Organization, fraternal national trade union centers, provide solidary support to the actions and initiatives of the International Trade Union Confederation, and develop the Council of Trade Unions of Central Asian Countries. We will always support our brothers and sisters abroad. We will actively seek the ratification of the ILO conventions, which are the basis for building a fair economy, expand workers’ rights, trade union rights, and will monitor strict compliance with international labor standards in our country.
And in their practical activities — to actively use the positive experience of national and international trade union organizations in protecting the rights and socio-economic interests of employees.
Today’s Solidarity Forum is devoted to another issue. Namely, the positions of the Federation of Trade Unions in connection with the upcoming presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan on November 20 this year.
However, the decision on such a significant issue cannot be tactical. This common decision of ours should be within the framework of the overall strategy of our actions.
Our collective decision should be implemented not only directly on November 20 during the election process, but also further – as part of the subsequent work of trade unions in the field of politics, economy and social life of Kazakhstan.
We have never been indifferent to who will be the president of our republic.
We, the trade unions, have a mandate to express and defend the opinion of trade union members on all important issues. And to abandon this mandate of trust would be simply irresponsible.
Such a refusal would sound especially irresponsible today – at a time when Kazakhstan is at a historical fault, when attempts are still being made to restore the old system and unleash a political crisis. When the geopolitical situation in the world is not changing for the better every day.
Now is not the time to get carried away with imaginary nominations of their candidates for “self-promotion”, while not believing in advance a positive final result for us. We have already been involved in this process twice to no avail.
This time we have to be reasonable, responsible for our decisions and objectively consider the nominees.
The person who will be elected President of our country should know the real state of affairs well, clearly see the prospects for the development of the country and understand how it can be achieved. He should be able to become a reliable defender of the state, the rights and interests of citizens, respond in a timely and responsible manner to all the challenges of the modern world.
I have already stated before the General Council my civic position on the presidential candidate and I believe that it would be advisable to support the candidacy of Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in the presidential elections of the Republic of Kazakhstan in 2022.
The positive steps taken over the past three years under the leadership of President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev in many directions, efforts and initiatives to ensure human rights are evidence of a firm desire to improve the standard of living of our Kazakh people, their well-being and prosperity. It is necessary to give him the opportunity to transform these steps into systemic reforms and give them a stable dynamic.
We are pleased that the Head of our country pays special attention to the conduct of the formal economy, the eradication of poverty, the creation of decent and favorable working conditions for the population.
We have no doubt that Kassym-Jomart Tokayev not only hears the opinion of trade unions, but also listens to it. I have already spoken about the initiatives of trade unions, which were supported by Kassym-Jomart Tokayev, with the rank of President. It was during his leadership that a program was adopted to increase the incomes of the population, the minimum wage increased. Moreover, the state, being, in fact, the largest employer in the country, has thus set a general course for raising wages in all sectors of the economy. And the implementation of a long-standing initiative of trade unions to develop a methodology for determining the minimum wage has recently become a reality precisely because the President publicly supported the position of the FTURK.
We are now on the threshold of a period that not only threatens us with great shocks, but also promises new opportunities in terms of the development of the country, the fuller realization of its human potential. The realization of positive prospects requires a clear economic and social policy of the state.
Against such a background, supporting Tokayev’s candidacy is for us a completely natural form of protecting trade union members from populism and satisfying the personal ambitions of other candidates. But we must do this not only because of the dubious benefits for trade union members and all workers from the election of other candidates. We must do this, because we consider Kassym-Jomart Tokayev to be the candidate who will be able to implement the trade union instructions formulated by the working people.
And what is very important for us, he can implement these instructions without interfering in the internal life of trade unions, highly appreciating the independence of trade unions as a special public organization. The proof of which can be his firm position on preventing interference in the process of democratic elections of the chairman of the FTURK from the trade union environment in 2020, which excluded the vicious practice of state intervention in the internal affairs of trade unions.
I outlined these instructions in my speech, and now I will repeat some of them.
In order to maintain the manageability of the socio-political situation in the country, it is necessary to systematically achieve the quality of labor relations. The situation in the social and labor sphere requires an immediate “maneuver” in the direction of the Labor Man. Without the activation of each employee, there can be neither economic growth nor development.
The economy, measured only in technology, barrels and tons, is inhuman. The economy, in which for many years there have not been implemented megaprojects (FIIR, clusters, etc.) on the first line, is deformed. A fair Kazakhstan needs a fair economy.
First of all, the FTURK requires real steps by the state to increase the purchasing power of the population. To do this, it is necessary to further increase the real incomes of citizens, wage workers. In addition, the authorities, in our opinion, are obliged to take even more decisive measures to combat poverty. We are talking not only about raising the minimum wage, but also about creating specific mechanisms for annual indexing of salaries at least not below the inflation rate.
The country’s workers need fair pay for their work. Everyone is well informed – how much the company earns, how much the management receives and in what favorable conditions they live. The situation when the income gap between the manager and the employee reaches huge proportions cannot be explained by stories about “unique specialists”.
Yes, the real incomes of workers should grow in line with the growth of labor productivity. But together, the government and the trade unions must ensure that labor productivity growth is carried out through modernization of production, new equipment and new technologies, and not at the expense of cheap labor and the working poor.
We believe that today it is necessary to strengthen legislative guarantees for the timely payment of wages in full. We believe that the existence of salary debts should be a serious reason for a negative assessment of regional akims.
Unfortunately, despite our common efforts, regular accidents at work demonstrate the disregard of the owner and manager of the enterprise for the life and health of the employee. Yes, sometimes the employee himself goes to the violation of safety regulations. But he does this not because he values his life a little. He faces a simple choice – either a low salary when following safety regulations, or a risk to health, but – money in the family. It is necessary to qualitatively increase the material responsibility of the employer and even the owner for causing harm to the life and health of the employee. This is the only way to make business think about people.
In my speech, I tried to outline the main, but not the final list of trade union instructions to our presidential candidate. I think that during the discussion in trade union organizations, this list should be supplemented. It is the orders of workers that should become the basis for Kazakhstan’s social policy for the coming period.
I hope that today the leaders of trade union organizations of different levels participating in this Forum will support my position.
The choice is yours!
I wish all of us unity in our actions, the triumph of justice in solving our tasks, success in achieving strategic goals and consistent development of the entire trade union movement in the country!
I am sure that by our deeds we will write not a single bright page in the glorious history of the trade union movement of Kazakhstan!
I want to end my speech with a poem by the Kazakh poet Kadyr Myrzaliyev.
Learn the secrets of your native land,
“I don’t know,” he said.
Looking at these high mountains,
How can we be low, Hey guys!
Learn the secrets of your native land,
“I don’t know,” he said.
Looking at this bottomless sea,
How can we be shallow, Hey guys?!
Learn the secrets of your native land,
“I’m sorry,” he said.
Looking at this vast steppe
How can we be younger, Hey guys?!