On 4 October 2019, the Forestry Workers Union of Kyrgyzstan held its 10th statutory National Conference in in Cholpon-Ata, Kyrgyzstan. The aim of the Conference was to report on the union’s activities of the previous four years, to discuss strategy for the next period, and to elect the leadership of the organization.
The conference took place at a turbulent time for the trade union movement in Kyrgyzstan. The National Parliament is steadily pushing forward a new anti-union legislation, despite continuous protests from the national and international trade union movement. According to the draft law, all trade unions of Kyrgyzstan should be transformed into controlled and according to the government “accountable” structures of the Federation of Trade Unions of Kyrgyzstan (FPK). The FPK would then act as a state authority in the area of labour rights protection.
From the very beginning the Forestry Workers Union of Kyrgyzstan opposed the government’s attempts to limit the fundamental right of freedom of association. Together with other industrial unions the Forestry Workers Union of Kyrgyzstan participated in numerous meetings with members of Parliament, conduct interview with mass media, and organize press conferences, pickets and demonstrations to oppose the bill.
The union’s public position against the new law made it challenging to prepare and organize their statutory National Conference. As the forestry industry in Kyrgyzstan is public, the State Agency for Environmental Protection and Forestry, which is the employer, intervened by preventing elected delegates to participate in the Conference. Many delegates reported that they had been threatened with dismissal if they were to take part in the National Conference. Despite all these threats, the majority of the elected delegates attended the Conference where they committed to continue the fight against the anti-union law. Kanatbek Osmonov was re-elected as President of the union.
“I am very proud of my union comrades who are not afraid to stand up for our union values and protect fundamental rights. This Conference demonstrated that we are united and strong. We are ready to continue the fight,” said Kanatbek Osmonov, the Forestry Workers Union president.
Ambet Yuson, General Secretary of BWI extended his support and solidarity to the delegates at the National Conference. “We are deeply concerned by the actions of the government to undermine fundamental trade union rights in Kyrgyzstan. The 12 million members of BWI will continue to support your fight to stop the anti-trade union law become a reality.”