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Thank you, chairperson.
I am speaking on behalf of the European Union and its member States.
We attach great importance to human rights, including freedom of association and right to organize of both workers and employers, and recognize the important role played by the ILO in developing, promoting and supervising International labour standards.
The EU-Kazakhstan relationship is governed by the Enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement which has enabled us to strengthen our bilateral cooperation. This agreement includes commitments to effectively implement the ILO fundamental Conventions.
Kazakhstan is becoming a recurrent case at the CAS, as conformity with Convention 87 was already discussed in 2016 and 2017. Repeated requests were made by this Committee to the government to amend the legislation related to trade unions, notably the provisions of the Law on Trade Unions which limits the rights of trade unions to form and join trade unions of their own choosing, as well as other provisions included in the Labour Code, the Constitution and the Criminal Code.
We welcome that following CAS recommendations, an ILO high level mission took place in May 2018. We note with interest that a roadmap was approved at this occasion which provided for a number of steps to be undertaken in order to implement the recommendations of the Committee of experts.
However, we regret the persistent lack of progress with regard to freedom of association, and right to organize in the country including the right to strike, despite repeated requests by this committee.
While welcoming the release of the two trade union leaders arrested in 2017, we express deep concern over allegedly continued harassment, intimidation and violations of fundamental human rights of trade unionists This included the physical assault on the leader of the Karaganda region branch of the fuel and energy workers union in November 2018.At this point we take note that the released trade union leaders were reported to be prohibited from engaging in trade union activities.
We also express concern over the fact that some trade unions are still denied registration. In particular, the Confederation of independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, which went into liquidation and as a consequence of the new law on trade unions, has still not been able to register or reregister. That said, we request the government to engage with the social partners to review the difficulties identified by trade unions and to ensure the right of workers to establish organizations without prior authorization from the government. Such a review should include the possibility of facilitating the registration and re-registration process of trade unions and revise the mandatory affiliation requirement.
We want to reaffirm that an environment conducive to dialogue and trust between employers, workers and governments is essential for social and economic stability and contributes to creating a basis for solid and sustainable growth and inclusive societies.
Based on the above considerations, we reiterate the requests made in 2017:
1) We call on the government of Kazakhstan to respect the workers’ right to establish and join organizations of their own choosing. To ensure that this right is fully respected, we urge the government to amend the law on 2014 Trade Unions without further delay and in particular section 11 (3) 12 (3), 13 (2 and 3) and 14 (4), in consultation with the social partners.
2) Employers also have the right to form and join the organization of their own choosing. As repeated several times by this Committee, we urge the government to amend the Law on the Chamber of Entrepreneurs and any other relevant legislation to ensure the autonomy and independence of the free and independent employers’ organizations in Kazakhstan.
3) We urge the government to take measures to ensure that the right to strike is fully respected in the country and amend the 2015 Labour Code as well as section 402 of the Criminal Code accordingly, as the government has already committed to several times before this committee. We request the government to provide information on the reform of the criminal law and procedure so that no penal sanction is imposed against a worker for having carried out a peaceful strike.
4) Finally, we encourage the government to take the necessary measures-in line with the current experts’ report- to authorize workers’ and employers’ organizations to receive financial assistance from international organizations of workers and employers.
We are pleased to hear that the government is preparing a new Bill to amend the Law on trade unions. We encourage the government to continue to avail itself of ILO’s technical assistance in order to proceed with the reforms needed and ensure that the legislative changes comply with ILO Conventions.
In practice, we expect from the government not to impede registration of independent trade unions, to respect the workers’, right to organize and freedom of association including the right to strike and to put an end to harassment, intimidation and arrests of trade unionists in the country.
We will continue to closely monitor the situation and remain fully committed to our cooperation and partnership with Kazakhstan.
Thank you, Chair.