Cotton workers form the first independent trade union in Uzbekistan
The first independent and democratic trade union organization has been formed in Uzbekistan. On March 19, 2021, 335 workers from the Indorama cotton plantations founded “Xalq Birligi” (Peoples’ Unity) in response to low wages and deteriorating working conditions in the transnational company, Indorama.
This important development follows more than a decade of pressure by an international coalition of organizations which led campaigns to get the government to end the widespread use of child labour on cotton plantations, to significantly decrease the number of state employees in forced labour and to ratify key ILO conventions
While Uzbekistan ratified ILO Convention 87 on Freedom of Association in 2016, authoritarian rule persists and workers have not previously dared to exercise their right to form a trade union outside of the state-controlled Federation of Trade Unions, FTUU
IUF General Secretary Sue Longley sent congratulations to Xalq Birligi as well as a warning to the Uzbek government: “Formation of an independent union in a country where independent union activity was banned for the last three decades is a breakthrough. However, it still remains to be seen if Uzbekistan will fulfill its obligations under ILO Convention 87 and ‘take all necessary and appropriate measures to ensure that workers may exercise freely the right to organise.’ IUF will closely monitor the events and will offer all our support to the sisters and brothers in Xalq Birligi.”