To investigate the Uzbek policy on Labor Law and Human Rights. Therefore, the constitution and code of conduct within Uzbekistan are illuminated, a case, a newspaper article, and a publication from the Human Rights Watch are used for this investigation. The involved parties are the government of Uzbekistan, multinationals who buy or sell cotton under these harsh circumstances, the human rights entities, and other governments. Moreover, Uzbekistan is ranked as one of the worst human rights preservers. See for example the International Human Rights Rank Indicator (http://www.ihrri.com/) and the Freedom in the World Index (http://www.freedomhouse.org/report-types/freedom-world).By evaluating the different points of view, I hope to stress the seriousness of the problem.
Forced labor is one of the main problems within Uzbekistan for many decades. The governmental arbitration and the right implication of the laws are a questionable matter. Many children and adults are forced to work in cotton fields. Moreover, not only adults are forced to work in the cotton fields but also children ranging in age from 11 up to 15 years old, see for more information appendix A: Statistics child labor. After fierce critique in 2012, the government of Uzbekistan changed its policy and raised the age boundary up to 16 and 17 years old college students. The Uzbek-German forum carried out a research, which found that the Uzbek government forced the 16 and 17 years old students to stop their study in order to work in the cotton fields. Forced labor is implemented and supported by many institutions such as: “the highest levels of government, regional and local officials, directors of colleges and lyceums, and administrators of government-funded agencies and organizations, including schools, medical clinics, and local governments” (http://uzbekgermanforum.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/Forced-Labor-in-Uzbekistan-Report-2013.pdf).
Forced Child Labor Linked to World Bank Group Investments in Uzbekistan
How are the labor laws arbitrated and implemented by Uzbekistan?
Labor law is a set of rules to protect the employees, employer, the rules also include trade unions and employee unions. There are two types of labor law, collective labor law which is the cooperation between the employees, union, and employee. The individual labor law is about the rights of the employee (business dictionary, 2017). http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/labor-laws.html
As can be observed the articles of Universal declaration of human rights, article 4 no slavery and article 26 the right for education are interwoven in the conventions and in the Uzbek constitution mentioned underneath. http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/index.html
Ratified conventions by Uzbekistan regarding forced labor:
The United Nations(UN) convention rights of child
The convention is described in 54 articles, how governments and parents must preserve all the children’ rights such as: cultural, political, economic, social, and civil rights.
The fundamental rights:
– Non-discrimination (article 2)
– Best interest of the child (article 3)
– Right to life, survival, and development (article 6)
– Right to be heard (article 12)
The International convention on civil and political rights (ICCPR) Article 8
The convention protects the civil and political rights of each person within the ratified convention country. To preserve these rights, the specific country should take legal steps. https://ccla.org/summary-international-covenant-on-civil-and-political-rights-iccpr/
The International Labor Organization conventions, the abolition of forced labor convention number 105
The convention prohibits forced labor; therefore, no labor may be forced from anyone. Basic standards are mentioned regarding the labor rights. Such as the freedom to organize, the elimination of forced labor, negotiation about labor, equal rights, chances, and regulations for work related issues. http://lastradainternational.org/doc-center/1066/convention-concerning-the-abolition-of-forced-labour
– The International Labor Organization conventions, the forced labor convention number 29
The convention states that countries whom ratified this convention shall not support and must avoid forced or compulsory labor.
– The International Labor Organization conventions, minimum age convention number 138
The convention mentions the minimum age for employment, hazardous work is permitted from the age 18 and under strict conditions 16 years old may perform such work. For normal work the age minimum is 15 years old and in developing countries it is 14 years old. Light work may be performed from 13 years old and in developing countries from 12 years old.
– The International Labor Organization conventions, on the worst forms of child labor number 182
The convention states that the worst forms of child labor must be extinct.
Labor law of Uzbekistan:
The Uzbek constitution forbids forced child and normal child labor.
– Law on the State Youth Policy Framework of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Article 8
Public work is prohibited for school children & students.
– The Law on the Protection of the Rights of the Child, Article 20
Other laws provide that labor is only permissible if it does not harm development or interfere with education. Labor only permissible if guardian’s write a consent from the age of 15 years old
– Constitution of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Article 37
The constitution protects the right to work, fair conditions, and forbids forced labor.
available at: http://www.gov.uz/en/constitution/, accessed May 10, 2014
– Labor Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, Article 241
Hazardous work is forbidden under the age of 18 old.
Case: OECD complaint mechanism
One of the largest cotton exporters is Uzbekistan, unfortunately the cotton is gathered by forced labor by children and adults. Various cotton wholesalers are charged by the European center for constitutional and human rights (ECCHR) and partners with 7 complaints for labor-intensive cotton buying from the state-owned cotton producers. https://www.oecdwatch.org/cases/Case_196
These complaints are filed at the National Contact Points (NCPs), the companies who bought the cotton are infringing the OECD guidelines. The Companies are asked to implement the agreed upon rules, if not complaints will be filed.
Many attempts to pressure the Uzbek government are used, such as media attention, and negative influences on the cotton industry to maintain the relationship with Europe and the wholesalers. Consequently, Germany made a political agenda point about forced child & adults labor. They demanded a boycott to discourage forced labor by the Uzbek government.
The children and adults are forced to work in cotton fields, under poor conditions. The profit from these children and adults flow directly to the governmental capital. Therefore, the Uzbek Government is reliable for supporting these wholesale companies.
Despite the charges, and all the efforts from the OECD, the companies still operated with ignoring all the efforts put by the NCPs on regulating the trade with forced labor. This is the result of non-consequential procedures, which allows the companies to remain operations.
The cases are appropriate to the topic, because it highlights the war between the human rights organizations and the wholesalers who demand cotton for their production purposes thus indirectly financing the forced labor. The legislation and multiple NCPs cannot protect the well-being of the human rights. Even when so many organizations are willing to protect the children and adults from forced labor, the organizations cannot compete with the Uzbek government and their own interpretation of the legislation. Moreover, the non-executive power of the organizations causes the continuation of this threat to the human rights.
Newspaper article: Uzbek Cotton Issue Getting Thorny
The head of the ILO is worried about tracking the supply chain, and whether the demanding firms are operating knowingly or not. About 60 companies operating in the fashion industry located in the United States and Europe have signed an agreement against child labor.
The Uzbek governmental parties denied the practice of forcing the children to pick quotas. Moreover, the government makes it tough for the ILO to investigate such practices. Although, the government of Uzbekistan has it concerns about the forced labor, it is breaching the necessary conventions such as convention 182 and convention 138 of the ILO, see the section legislation for the definition of the mentioned conventions. Measuring the right implementation of the conventions is difficult because scarcity of evidence.
This article is appropriate for this research because it gives the apparel manufacturing companies’ point of view and their willingness to demonstrate against forced labor. As mentioned above, the legislative implementation of the conventions is difficult to measure since the government is not allowing the ILO to investigate the forced labor.
Legal website article: We can’t refuse to pick cotton
This article written by Human Rights Watch (HRW) is illustrating testimonials from the cotton pickers. These cotton pickers claimed, that they do not have an option to leave the work otherwise they would lose their income to support themselves. The World Bank Group is an institution which is fighting against poverty, stimulating sustainability, and prosperity of developing countries by offering financial funds and knowledge. http://www.worldbank.org/en/what-we-do.
In 2015 the HRW and Uzbek-German Forum decided to investigate the situation, they found that the areas where these breaching practices occur are linked to the World Bank Group’s project. During this project, forced labor and child labor are forbidden in operations. If people did not work on the cotton fields, consequences such as: refusal of child benefits, unemployment, academic penalties, other welfare payments are withdrawn from people. The World Bank Group financed the Uzbek government with $ 0.5 billion to stimulate the irrigation program in the specific areas. After confronting the World Bank Group with the infringements of the Uzbek government, the World Bank Group continued financial funding the forced labor by its subsidiary: International Finance Corporation (IFC). As agreed on, the World Bank Group shall allow reliable monitoring. Unfortunately, the World Bank Group allowed the Uzbek Government to be involved in the investigations. Which made the reports unreliable because they are scripted and did not show reality. https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/06/27/we-cant-refuse-pick-cotton/forced-and-child-labor-linked-world-bank-group
This article written by the HRW is important to illustrate the consequences of the money investments by the World Group Bank and its indirect impact on the Uzbek population. The testimonials are giving a reliable point of view about the harsh conditions and regulations the cotton fieldworkers must deal with in order to survive.
To conclude, the situation in Uzbekistan is a huge problem for its citizens. As mentioned in the report, many organizations are involved against the war of forced labor and child labor. Therefore, indirect, and direct support of these practices should be boycotted as the Uzbek-German Forum did. To answer the research question how the government of Uzbekistan is arbitrating the laws, as observed the implementation of the laws and conventions are not fully integrated in line with the laws. Moreover, the Uzbek government not allowing the ILO the investigate the problem rightfully makes this problem even worse. The OECD complaint mechanism is not allowing the human rights organizations to give binding consequences for the breaching businesses. This allows the continuity of the forced labor to exist. On the other side, many fashion, and other businesses are aware of the consequences of forced child labor. These businesses agreed to sign an agreement against child labor, by making these companies aware of their business practices and consequences the transparency of the market should be openly discussed in order to solve the problem. Finally, the World Group Bank supporting the Uzbek government with its irrigation program does not help either to solve forced child labor. Only if independent reports from third parties, who are not under control of the Uzbek government can report about the situation on the cotton fields, age limitations, and control all the time over the workers on the field, and the implementation of extinction of forced labor and child labor is the solution to work on in my opinion.