Trade Unions Federation presidential candidate focuses on protecting workers rights

NUR-SULTAN – Presidential candidate Amangeldy Taspikhov, running on behalf of the Kazakh Federation of Trade Unions (FPRK), presented May 13 his election campaign platform under the slogan “It’s time to work!” on the website of the federation.

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Taspikhov’s campaign reflects the ideals of the FPRK and pledges to protect the interests and rights of workers. Through protecting workers’ rights Taspikhov believes he will also protect the interests of their families and friends.

The candidate has five main directives. The first priority is to create business reforms. The second is to ensure safe workplaces. The third priority is to increase workers’ rights. The fourth priority is to establish higher salaries and the fifth is to re-examine regulations concerning migrant labour.

Taspikhov particularly wants to ensure businesses properly pay their workers. According to the candidate’s platform, state labour inspectors find many violations against employees’ rights. To date, Kazakh employers have 2 billion tenge (US$5.27 million) in wage arrears to their employees, according to the campaign.

“We are for strengthening the administrative and criminal liability of negligent employers, violating the labour and constitutional rights of ordinary workers,” the campaign says.

The second priority addresses workplace safety. According to information distributed by the campaign, more than 1,500 workers receive labour injuries and more than 200 people die in the workplace annually because employers violate labour legislation. Every seventh worker is engaged in hazardous working conditions, says the campaign.

“The state and the employer must create all conditions so that the employee returns to (his or her) family every day, healthy and unharmed,” reads the campaign materials.

The campaign also asserts employers try to hide accidents. The vast majority of fatalities at work are “exclusively the fault of an employer,” says the campaign.

The federation promises to develop a Safe Labour state programme that will focus on a zero-injury concept. The programme will use a “carrots and sticks” approach. They promise to introduce an endorsement system for employers to create safe workplaces. Employers that do so will receive tax benefits and subsidies for infrastructure. The “sticks” will be the strengthening of administrative and criminal liability measures for employers who neglect the safety of their workers.

The third priority seeks to help workers defend their rights.

“Over the past five years, all the strikes that took place in the country have been declared illegal by the courts due to the fact that employees do not comply with the procedures for issuing claims, which, in turn, are so complex that they make them practically impossible,” reads material distributed by the campaign.

The federation suggests collective bargaining as their main tool to enforce workers’ rights. To date, 41 percent of enterprises and organisations in the country have signed collective bargaining agreements. A total of 98 percent of businesses that have trade unions have signed collective bargaining agreements.

“In enterprises where there are trade unions and collective bargaining agreements, employees will be protected in their rights,” campaign materials assert.

The fourth priority focuses on salaries and income gaps within a business.

“Official statistics on the average nominal wage in the country (176,000 tenge or US$463.5) does not reflect the real situation with the income of our working citizens,” reads the campaign text.

Statistics show workers in the mining industry and financial sector have the highest wages, yet make up only 8 percent of total workers.

The fifth campaign priority is focused on regulating labour migration. The candidate’s campaign is concerned that approximately 50,000 qualified foreign specialists and more than 400,000 low-skilled foreign workers come to Kazakhstan annually, while the number of unemployed Kazakh citizens is more than 400,000. In addition, the party suggests that, including the “unproductively self-employed part of the population,” the number of unemployed is more than one million.

The party’s solutions include creating jobs that favour Kazakh specialists.

“An employer who has attracted a highly qualified foreign specialist is obliged to prepare a replacement for him from among Kazakh specialists after the expiration of the foreigner’s stay in the country,” states the campaign.

The campaign also states the country needs to address population imbalance with more people migrating to urban areas. It suggests introducing a system for voluntary internal relocation that will guarantee citizens opportunities for housing, employment and schools for children.

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