To raise awareness of the Kyrgyzstan’s responsibility to improve workplace safety and strengthen workplace inspections, the Solidarity Center last year launched a program to increase the visibility of the country’s Labor Inspectorate among workers and employers through education seminars and other consultative fora.
Significant progress has been made. Kyrgyzstan’s Labor Inspectorate is reporting that in 2022, as compared to the year prior:
- The number of identified violations increased from 18 to 1,402
- The value of fines imposed on employers increased from $598 to $13,126
- The amount of compensation paid to workers killed or injured in workplace accidents increased from $176,723 to $380,501
- The value of wages collected by sickened or injured workers increased from $4,023 to $103,039
- The number of employers trained on Kyrgyzstan’s safety standards increased from none to 74.
The right to a safe and healthy work environment place is a fundamental right of every worker. Developing partnership between Kyrgyzstan’s unions, government and employers is yielding results by better capturing and addressing safety violations, and ensuring compensation and wages to those who are sickened or injured on the job.
“The tripartite platform proved to be an exceedingly effective tool in ensuring that the voices of workers were heard by both employers and the government,” says Trade Union of Construction and Building Materials Workers Republican Committee Chair Eldiyar Karachalov.
To mark April 28, World Day for Safety and Health at Work, and in collaboration with unions, the Labor Inspectorate conducted a high-profile campaign to educate the public about issues surrounding safety at work and publicize the Labor Inspectorate’s new website and online form for reporting worker rights violations. Unions, with Solidarity Center support, contributed success stories, including on video for state television and social network distribution.
“[The Labor Inspectorate] helped me get the pay I was owed,” reports primary school teacher N.A. Usubalieva.
At its 110th Session in June 2022, the International Labor Conference decided to amend paragraph two of the ILO Declaration on Fundamental Principles and Rights at Work (1998) to include “a safe and healthy working environment” as a fundamental principle and right at work, and to make consequential amendments to the ILO Declaration on Social Justice for a Fair Globalization (2008) and the Global Jobs Pact (2009).
Nearly 200 railway construction workers in three villages in west Georgia won significant health and safety gains through two agreements with state-owned company China Railway 23rd Bureau Group, according to interviews with several workers in a new Georgian-language video. The company is under contract with the government to modernize Georgia’s Tbilisi-Rikoti railway route, including construction of seven tunnels.
Before the agreements took effect, workers at the construction site in Zvare referred to their section of the project as, “the hell tunnel.” In interviews, they describe how company managers ordered them to enter the tunnel before smoke and dust had cleared from rock-clearing blasts, and how they had not received protective masks and clothing, clean water on the job or paid sick leave.
“There was so much smoke that you cannot see a person in a [three foot] radius, but the attitude of employers is, ’work or go home,’”says one Zvare tunnel worker. “Working there [was] dangerous for life,” confirms Vitali Giorgadze, president of Georgia’s national independent union for railway workers, GRWNTU.
After the agreements took effect, workers reported significant health and safety improvements. “Current conditions are much better than they were before the trade union,” says welder Paata Kiknadze. The agreements committed the company to union-run health and safety monitoring and reporting systems at Zvare, Bezhatubani and Dzirula construction sites, which workers say is key to maintaining the health and safety measures.
With GRWNTU’s assistance, the settlements were reached last fall after workers walked off the job, first in Zvare and later at other construction sites along the route, to protest the firing of two Zvare workers who refused to enter a tunnel filled with scorching dust. Workers walked out again in November, after company representatives allegedly beat five workers in Zvare for, alleges company representatives, gathering firewood on company property.
Assisted by GRWNTU, workers at the Zvare, Bezhatubani and Dzirula construction sites organized into bargaining units, elected leaders and petitioned the Georgian government for assistance to ensure the company ceased violating Georgia labor law. Workers held protest rallies in September in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, outside the offices of the Georgian Railway department and the Ministry of Labor, Health and Social Affairs of Georgia.
The agreements include additional benefits beyond health and safety improvements. “Before the strike, they did not have the right to [overtime pay and paid] leave,” says Paata Ninua, GRWNTU chief of staff and safety specialist trained under Solidarity Center’s Georgia program, funded by the U.S. Department of Labor. After the strike and the negotiations that followed, Ninua says, these problems were solved.
On November 24, 2012, a massive fire tore through the Tazreen Fashions Ltd. factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, killing more than 110 garment workers and gravely injuring thousands more.
To mark the fourth anniversary of Tazreen, a new Solidarity Center photo essay depicts the system of exploitation in the global garment industry that made the fire at Tazreen so devastating, and showcases how workers have been standing together since the disaster to fight for safer working conditions and greater respect for their rights at work.
Dying for a Job: Commemorating the Anniversary of the 2012 Tazreen Factory Fire, illustrates how with the Solidarity Center, which partners with unions and other organizations to educate workers about their rights on the job, garment workers are empowered with the tools they need to improve their workplaces together.