Joint platform to combat trafficking for labour exploitation

On March 31 – April 1 in Sarajevo a meeting of different partner organisations regarding the case of labour trafficking to Azerbaijan (SERBAZ company case) took place.

In October 2009 ITUC received information from OSCE and Serbia NGOs about the dramatic situation of foreign workers in Azerbaijan. 700 workers from BiH, Serbia and Macedonia were brought to Azerbaijan to work at construction sites operated by the company “SerbAZ”. They were brought on the tourist visas. In summer 2009 the salary payments were frozen, passports from employees were taken away, workers were put to live in scary conditions without food and water.

With the assistance of NGOs most of them returned home. The work in Azerbaijan continue 35 workers from BiH.

International organizations such as OSCE, ILO, ITUC reacted right away. In December ITUC and BiH trade unions leaders delegation visited Azerbaijan regarding this case, and the plans for workers assistance were discussed.

By an ITUC initiative the meeting of all partners - OSCE, ILO, ITUC, BWI, unions from BiH and Azerbaijan, NGO’s, which work in the trafficking sphere.
One of the meeting outcomes was the signing of co-operation agreement on cooperation and migrant workers protection between BiH and Azerbaijan construction workers trade unions, the BWI is supporting and monitoring the agreement.

Subregional South East Europe and Azerbaijan partners prepared action plans for prevention of workers trafficking and exploitation . The coordinating work group between the TU and NGO’s was created, information network established. The event received big attention from local mass media.

NGO’s representatives agreed to participate in encouraging workers to get in contact and affiliation wtih the trade unions.

TU and NGO’s representatives met with the former SERBAZ workers. Part of them gave the power of attorney to Azerbaijan migration center lawyers to start cases against SERBAZ regarding wages unpaid and compensations for moral and physical damage. Workers were explained the advantages of membership in the TU and necessity of it. Many workers were ready to join BiH construction workers unions.

Due to high unemployment and small wages in home country part of the former SERBAZ workers started working or plan to start work in UAE, Czech Republic, Russia.

According to the latest information, SERBAZ brought in Azerbaijan 50 workers from Bulgaria, recruits BiH workers for work in Russia. Participants decided to inform about it Bulgarian trade unions, start to prepare agitation material in Bulgarian language, and to explain workers and the construction sites about the possible dangers.

The ITUC will continue to monitor this case and support workers, will inform international organizations about this case. Next partners meeting is foreseen for November in Azerbaijan, Baku.

S. Glovackas