ITUC, AHIK and KSBiH common actions on the forced labour case in Azerbaijan

On 15-16 December of the representatives of the ITUC and of its affiliate the Confederation of Trade Unions of Bosnia-Hercegovina (KSBiH) come to Azerbaijan with an assessment visit to investigate the Bosnian migrant workers rights violations and to discuss common action plans of the ITUC, the KSBiH and the Confederation of Trade Unions of Azerbaijan. The visit was organized on the initiative of all three partners.

Delegation consisted of ITUC Stephan Benedict Benedict Head of Human and Trade Union Rights department, Sergejus Glovackas PERC Vilnius office, KSBiH chairman Edhem Biber, Republica Srpska construction workers trade union chairman Mile Ribic.

The company SerbAz, registered in offshore zone did subcontract construction work in Azerbaijan. For this work the company directly or through local agencies recruited workers in about 700 workers employed from BiH, Serbia, and Macedonia. Most of these workers were engaged without written contracts and on the touristic visas. Their passports were kept at employer office. Since summer of 2009 due to crisis work conditions worsened, the salaries were delayed or reduced. Workers appealed to NGO Migration center for help. It has informed about the situation OSCE, IOM, ILO and Serbian NGO’s.

The AHIK President Satar Mathabaliev informed guests that he appealed to the government regarding migrant rights violations and now the deputy Prime-minister took this case under his control. AHIK representative visited the construction site and SerbAz office, met with workers and top management. AHIK also communicate with Labour Ministry and local ILO representative on trafficking and forced labour issues.

Bosnian colleagues informed that they had contacted state institutions responsible for these issues and found out through the Registry center that SerbAz and recruitment agencies were not registered in BiH; they also informed the society about the case.

Local ILO antitrafficking project coordinator in Azerbaijan has informed that they did their own investigation and found forced labour elements, such as documents were taken away and menace of punishment – deportation – is present.

At a special meeting of the sister organizations from construction sector of Azerbaijan and Bosnia tt was agreed to prepare cooperation agreement on mutual assistance, counseling and protection of both organization members and acknowledgement of bilateral memberships.
Bosnian trade unions will contact the workers who had left Azerbaijan and wend home and will organize public campaign related to this case, will call the tripartite council meeting on this issue, will request information why workers did not received proper counseling.

The AHIK has also paid the penalty for one of the workers whose visa was expired, but who wanted to stay in the country due to family reasons.

It was also agreed that the AHIK and ITUC-PERC will organize a major conference on the rights of migrants in Baku, inviting also the NGOs dealing with migration, ILO antitrafficking project and migrant workers themselves.

The mission will be followed by a special event in Bosnia and Herzegovina to build further cooperation on prevention of forced labour situations.