Abdullo Tojiboj-ugli, chair of the Day-laborers Union, with the petition of demands by hourly workers to be delivered to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection © Uznews.net
Abdullo Tojiboj-ugli, the head of the Day-laborers Union, delivered on March 20 the union’s demands for better working conditions and more jobs to the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection. While doing so he was supervised by about two dozen police officers.
The petition calls on the government to create decent conditions for workers in Uzbekistan. Specifically it calls for the abolition of the government monopoly on growing cotton and for organizing job centers and fairs not just formally but to actually accommodate the needs of workers and employers.
“Article 37 of the Constitution actually needs to be applied. It says that every Uzbek citizen has a right to be gainfully employed, to choose such employment freely, and to be protected by fair working conditions as well as supported when they are unemployed,” Tojiboj-ugli told the Uznews.net correspondent.
Tojiboj-ugli feels cheated by the government: his union obeyed the government’s wishes and did not call on its members to demonstrate as they had planned. They got nothing in return.
Under supervision and with threats
Tojiboj-ugli arrived at the ministry by bus at about 11 am yesterday and was met by about two dozen young fit men who had all the signs of being law enforcement officers.
The union representative was immediately approached by an official from the Chilanzar district terrorism unit and was offered help in delivering the petition.
As the Labor Minister was receiving visitors only after lunch Tojiboj-ugli decided to not wait and instead submit his petition through the ministry’s administrator.
After he dropped off the petition a police officer generously offered to drive Tojiboj-ugli back home.
On their way the car was stopped by the head of the terrorism unit known as Bakhti who threatened the union head: were he to continue his activism, they will find a way to throw him in prison.
“The country’s authorities do not have any respect for the Constitution”
The head of the unofficial union of the day workers was outraged by the authorities’ treatment of him.
The question of whether the day laborers demonstration would be allowed to take place on March 20 – with the expected number of participants close to 3,500 people – remained open until March 18. He was finally informed of the decision to ban the gathering, almost by accident, at a meeting of the Central Department of Internal Affairs where the Tashkent khokimiat (city administration) had forwarded his petition.
The official response was supposedly sent to him by regular post. Tojiboj-ugli, however, says that he is yet to receive this official letter.
“I decided that strong people need to keep their word so I called all the union representatives the day before yesterday and told them that the demonstration would not take place,” says Tojiboj-ugli.
In exchange for calling off the demonstration he was promised by the Central Department of Internal Affairs that his petition would be considered most seriously. In reality he felt cheated and threatened.
“The authorities do not respect the country’s constitution as they did not bother to give us a written response to our demonstration permit request,” believes Tojiboj-ugli.
In his opinion the Uzbek government is not interested in solving problems by peaceful means, “it can only threaten”.
Tojiboj-ugli believes that his union reserves its right to organize the demonstration originally scheduled for March 20 at a later time.