On 23-24 June in Astana, at the Central Asian regional trade union conference on “The role of trade unions in ensuring occupational safety and health and the effective functioning of labour inspection”, ILO experts and CCATU trade union leaders discussed common problems in the field of occupational safety and health.

“This conference and previous events are a fact of strengthening regional cooperation within the Council of Trade Unions. The ILO, by providing technical support to the unions in CCATU, is helping to promote minimum standards in the labour system in Central Asian countries. At the same time, it should be mentioned that international standards are unchangeable, universal and binding for all ILO members. Ratification of ILO Conventions is followed by responsibility. If countries have made such commitments, they need to be implemented,” stressed Gocha Alexandria.

António Santos, Labour Regulation, Labour Inspection and Labour Protection Officer at the ILO Office for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, shared his views on the challenges in the Central Asian region and the minimum requirements for the effective functioning of labour inspectorates with conference participants.

He presented an analysis of labour inspections in Central Asian countries.

According to him, the ILO’s fundamental labour inspection conventions Nos. 81, 129, 133 are not implemented by all countries that have accepted these obligations.

“International standards are minimal. Governments should by no means lower accepted standards. Expanding them is welcome. It is very important to have a good legal framework and policy on occupational health and safety. And it is equally essential that this legislation is enforced,” said the international expert.

Saruar Kenjebulat, chairman of the Committee on Social and Economic Relations and Social Partnership of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan, reported on the interaction between trade unions and the State Labour Inspectorate of Kazakhstan.

“Currently, the number of state inspectors is around 250, with 6.8 million employees. So there are about 27,500 workers per labour inspector in the country, and this figure can vary from region to region. But in any case, this is almost over three times the ILO recommended proportion,” stressed Saruar Kenzhebulat.

He also mentioned limiting the capacity of state inspectors to carry out inspections as one of the problematic issues.

“Scheduled inspections are limited in frequency and timing, unplanned inspections are conducted only when complaints are received, there is virtually no possibility to conduct unannounced inspections on risky businesses, etc. Annual inspection coverage is only 1.5%. Although, of course, inspections are not an aim in itself.. But in most cases, they help prevent breaches of labour law and protect workers’ rights,” the speaker clarified.

Saruar Kenzhebulat outlined initiatives proposed by the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan to improve the effectiveness of labour inspection and promote industrial democracy.

It is proposed to remove the Labour Inspectorate from the general order of state control and supervision, to transfer the State Labour Inspectorate from local executive bodies to the direct subordination of the MLSP of the Republic of Kazakhstan with an increase in the standard number of state inspectors and the extension of their powers.

The need for additional powers for technical inspectors in labour protection and the practice of joint inspections in the format “state labour inspector – technical labour protection inspector” is also mentioned.

“It is necessary to include a mandatory legal provision for the establishment of works councils in medium and large businesses, as well as to expand the functionality of works councils. Along with this, it is important to make maximum use of modern digital technologies in the field of occupational health and safety, identify the smallest prerequisites for accidents, and conduct all work based on a risk-oriented approach,” said Saruar Kenzhebulat.

The trade unions’ country presentations on cooperation with the state labour inspectorate were continued by Rysgul Babaeva, deputy chair of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan.

According to her, there are only 28 state labour inspectors per 2.5 million economically active people in Kyrgyzstan.

In addition, since 1 January, the government introduced a moratorium on inspections of businesses.

“70% of the working population is employed in the informal sector, where there is little compliance with labour laws and many hidden accidents. The moratorium was introduced to support business, but checks related to labour protection cannot be restricted as they concern the health and lives of workers,” stressed Rysgul Babayeva.

Meanwhile, the speaker stressed that the main tasks of Kyrgyz trade unions are to amend the Law on Trade Unions, contribute to the strengthening of the State Labour Inspectorate and further promote international standards in the social and labour sphere.

Dilshod Kakhorov, Head of the Labour Protection Department and Chief Labour Inspector of the Tajikistan Trade Union of State Institutions, shared his experience of trade union labour inspection.

“No employer can dismiss a trade union labour inspector without the consent of the national committee. There is proper co-operation between the trade union’s labour inspectorate and the state labour supervisory bodies. No accidents have been registered in the sector recently”, Dilshod Kakhorov stressed.

Allamyrat Sakhetmyradov, chairman of the Audit Commission of the National Trade Union Centre of Turkmenistan, also gave a presentation on the experience of the national trade union centre of his country.

“In order to monitor compliance with Turkmenistan’s labour legislation, trade unions and their associations establish technical and legal trade union labour inspectorates, which are empowered by regulations approved by the National Trade Union Centre of Turkmenistan,” said a representative of the Turkmen trade unions.

The importance of effective public control was stressed in his speech by Odil Mirzaev, chief technical labour inspector of the FPU administration, who presented the experience of the Labour Inspectorate of the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan.

“Under the Federation of Trade Unions of Uzbekistan a department has been created to handle appeals from individuals and legal entities, and to date, 95 labour inspectors of trade unions have been set up. Over the past 3 years 8,937 organisations have been subjected to public inspection, more than 14,000 violations of labour legislation have been identified and 113.2 billion soums have been recovered,” a representative of the FTU reported.

Discussing further promotion of ratifications of Conventions 155 and 187 in the Central Asian region, Sergeus Glovackas, Head of the Europe and Central Asia Division of ACTRAV/ILO noted that Kazakhstan is so far the only country to have ratified all 10 fundamental labour protection conventions. He stressed that Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan need to continue this work.

“In the last few years, thanks to the democratic transformation that began with the election of a new President of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, concrete steps have been taken to implement international standards,” stressed Sergejus Glovackas.

According to him, the ILO plans for the next 2 years will include further joint activities with the CCATU.

Continuing the theme of convention ratification, Gocha Alexandria, Senior Specialist in Workers’ Activities, ILO/ACTRAW, called on the countries of the Central Asian Council of Trade Unions to start and step up work to promote ratification of ILO Conventions No. 102 on Social Protection (Minimum Standards) and No. 121 on Workplace Injury Compensation.

During the discussion of the draft Conference Recommendations, participants proposed additional points.

Particularly the chairmen of the sectoral trade unions of QAQMETAL KÁSIPODAǴY, Asylbek Nuralin and Kazugleprof, Marat Mirgayazov, proposed measures to lower the retirement age for metallurgists and miners.

Meanwhile, Alimzhan Bekmagambetov, Deputy General Director of the Republican Scientific Research Institute for Labour Protection of the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection of the Republic of Kazakhstan, pointed out that the draft of the new Safe Labour Concept until 2030 included suggestions from the social partners.

“We have prepared an evidence-based draft and would like partners to support joint pilot testing in enterprises,” he urged.

The Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, Satybaldy Dauletalin, stressed that trade unions were directly involved in the development of the draft Concept.

“The idea behind this Concept is that it is time to move away from a compensation-based to a risk-based model of health and safety management. The unions have been saying this for years. It was very important for the unions to move conceptually away from the previous approaches. Our proposal was supported by the social partner,” stressed the chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan.

The conference as a whole endorsed the draft Recommendations on occupational safety and health and agreed to agree a final document to be sent to the social partners at Central Asian government level by 1 July.

In closing the conference, the organisers noted the fruitful and effective work of the forum participants.

CCATU Secretary General, Chairman of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, Satybaldy Dauletalin, thanked the International Labour Organisation for its support to the work of the Council, as well as CCATU members and social partners for their close cooperation.

“Each time we take a deeper look at the issues that are relevant to everyone, we develop concrete, substantive steps to solve common problems in the social and labour sphere. Our organisation is gaining strength. And today’s discussion is not just a problem statement, but also an elaboration of ways to solve it. I am confident that through our cooperation with the ILO, the voice of Central Asian trade unions will be heard. We are always ready to support each other. This helps each of us to address the issues at national level,” concluded the CCATU head.