Violation of Trade Union rights and international law in Armenia

As a member of the International Labor Organization (ILO, ILO), the Republic of Armenia has ratified a total of 29 ILO conventions, including all eight basic conventions.

Although freedom of association and the right to collective bargaining are guaranteed by fundamental conventions, there are violations of both those fundamental rights in national law and in practice. In general, violations of the rights enshrined in the ILO Conventions, particularly those enshrined in the Freedom of the Union Convention, occur regularly in state and local governments, but in many cases violations by officials are unproven because employees are not always ready to speak out.

Not everyone has the right to unite

Thus, for example, Article 4 of the ILO Convention No. 151 states:

  1. Civil servants enjoy adequate protection against discrimination against their work.
  2. Such protection shall apply, in particular, to the purposes for which it is intended.

(a) subject the work of civil servants to the condition that they do not join the organization of civil servants or refuse to join such an organization;

(b) result in the dismissal of a civil servant or damage by any other means on the ground that he is a member of an organization of civil servants or participates in the normal activities of such an organization.

Paragraph 3 of Article 1 of the same Convention stipulates that “the application of the guarantees provided for in this Convention to the Armed Forces and the Police shall be determined by domestic law or by-laws.”

Although the amendments to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, adopted on December 6, 2015, removed the restrictions on police and armed forces, as well as judges before, the legislation in this regard has not yet complied with the Constitution. In particular, according to Article 39, Clause 7 of the RA Law on Police Service, “Police officers cannot be united on the basis of the common interests of any party, socio-political, public (except scientific, cultural, sports, hunting, veterans”. use the position of members of religious organizations, including religious and trade unions, to promote the interests of parties, non-governmental organizations, including religious associations, and to treat them in the same way as other political or religious activities in the performance of their official duties. ”

The same restriction applies to Article 5 of the RA Law on Trade Unions. “Employees of the Armed Forces of the Republic of Armenia, police, national security, prosecutor’s office, as well as judges and the Constitutional Court cannot be members (members) of the Trade Union Organization. members. ”

Not everyone has the right to negotiate collectively

According to Article 9 of the same Convention 151 above, “civil servants, like other workers, have civil and political rights that are essential to the normal exercise of the right to freedom of association, provided that they maintain their status and obligations.” . However, the legislation of the Republic of Armenia does not stipulate the state side of branch collective bargaining for civil servants, as a result of which the trade union of employees of Armenian state institutions and local self-government bodies does not have the opportunity to conduct collective bargaining for those state employees. At the same time, Article 5 of Convention No. 154 states that:

  1. 1. Measures adapted to national conditions shall be taken to promote collective bargaining.
  2. 2. The aims of the measures referred to in paragraph 1 of this Article shall be the following:
    • (a) collective bargaining should be made possible for all employers and all groups of workers in the branches of activity covered by this Convention;
    • (b) collective bargaining should be progressively extended to all matters covered by subparagraphs (a), (b) and (c) of Article 2 of this Convention;
    • (c) the establishment of rules of procedure agreed between employers’ and workers’ organisations should be encouraged;
    • (d) collective bargaining should not be hampered by the absence of rules governing the procedure to be used or by the inadequacy or inappropriateness of such rules;
    • (e) bodies and procedures for the settlement of labour disputes should be so conceived as to contribute to the promotion of collective bargaining.

The same problem exists for municipal workers.

Laws and trade union rights are violated by government officials

The requirements of the ILO Convention are often violated in state organizations in the Republic of Armenia, as well as in local self-government bodies, when public officials prohibit employees from forming or joining a trade union. Such situation is relevant mainly in the provinces of the Armenia. All this is often undercovered as the “preference workers” and is difficult to prove. As a result, over the past 10 years, trade unions have ceased to operate in most of the cprovinces of the Republic of Armenia, particularly in large towns, such as Gyumri, Sisian, Goris, Meghri, Agarak, Kajaran, Armavir, Alaverdi, Tumanyan, etc. In the last 5 years alone, the number of municipalities where there are trade unions contracted twice, and the number of union members shrunk significantly. For example, immediately after the revolution, in the summer of 2018, the city administration of Hrazdan city (acting mayor of Hrazdan at that time: Lilit Stepanyan) stopped transferring the membership fees of the workers’ union to the Regional Union of Hrazdan Public Service without informing the workers, including our members in Hrazdan City Hall, therefore, existence of union has stopped.

There are cases, when high-ranking state officials influence the trade unions operating in the structures they lead. On the one hand, they allegedly support the trade union organization, on the other hand, they demand not to affililate the appropriate Sectoral unions, explaining to the workers that “their money would flow to another place unnecessarily.” In fact, such leaders are trying to manage the financial resources of the trade union themselves, which contradicts Article 5 of the Convention No. 151, stating that “In particular, acts which are designed to promote the establishment of public employees’ organisations under the domination of a public authority, or to support public employees’ organisations by financial or other means, with the object of placing such organisations under the control of a public authority, shall be deemed to constitute acts of interference within the meaning of this Article.” Such cases also violate the ILO Convention 87 on freedom of association, as no one has the right to interfere in the internal administration of the union, especially financially.

There are many organizations in the public sector, with “isolated” yellow trade unions, without any affiliation to sectoral or national level, and this situtaion contiunes even after Revolution. Examples are the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Enviroment, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of Emergency Situations, the State Commission for Economic Competition, etc. It is possible to emphasize once again that all such cases are difficult to prove, as the employees do not reveal the behavior of the managers.

An example is the letter sent to the Minister of Justice in June 2018 by our union, where we informed about situation, and offered to at least collaborate with us. A a respond, we have been told, that at the meeting of their union, members did not express a wish to affiliate to further level. However, it is not known if this ois true, as we have not been provided with opporunity to meet them and introduce us during their meeting. In another letter received from the former governor of Lori, he, in fact, admits that he is making a decision on membership fees to be transferred to the branch union.

Only after the revolution, in the summer of 2018, by the initiation of the regional governors of Armavir and Vayots Dzor, (Armavir regional governor of that time: Gagik Mirijanyan), the collection of membership fees was illegally suspended, which effectively stopped the activities of trade unions. Gagik Mirijanyan, the former governor of Armavir, was not satisfied with his illegal actions and went further to force the village mayors to refuse to transfer the membership fees to the trade unions, calling it as “the of financial means provided by the employer to the relevant trade union.” The same governor left the letter of the our union unanswered, violating Article 66 of the Labor Code, which is also a violation of Convention No. 135.

In 2015, the leadership of the General Department of State Protection of the Police “revealed” that the trade union organization operating in the department possesses significant financial resources. Within a few months, they were able to organize the change of the Chairman of the trade union by various tricks, influencing the employees, after which the activity of the trade union was finally stopped. In all its actions, the management violated the Article 1 of the Convention No. 135, which states that “Workers’ representatives in the undertaking shall enjoy effective protection against any act prejudicial to them, including dismissal, based on their status or activities as a workers’ representative or on union membership or participation in union activities, in so far as they act in conformity with existing laws or collective agreements or other jointly agreed arrangements.

The violation of the same Convention took place in 2018. In Armavir Governor Office, Governor Mirijanyan forced two employees to write an application and resign, leaving them without any possible means of protection.

Gyumri city Mayor Samvel Balasanyan did not allow the representatives of our union to hold a meeting with the employees and advised to address the employees through TV instead.

Although the national legislation, in particular the Labor Code, provides for the implementation of the ILO Convention No. 154 “On Collective Bargaining”, there are insufficient mechanisms to implement them and in practice these norms are often violated. For example, quite recently, on June 1, 2019, the Matenadaran Workers’ Trade Union submitted a petition to the employer, in which they made demands on the working conditions of the employees. According to Articles 65, 66 of the Labor Code, and the Law on Trade Unions, the employer is obliged to discuss the received claims, within seven days after receiving them, to make a written decision and provide it to the claimant, but the employer did not respond to the letter, moreover at the meeting with employees, he stated that he refuses to negotiate with the trade union organization, as most of the employees are not united in it.

There are many other similar cases described above in the Republic of Armenia, which prove that although the legislation provides for certain regulations, there are no mechanisms to ensure the application of the law.

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