March 30, 2012—In Kyrgyzstan, as all over the world, the nature of work is changing, and protecting worker rights is more and more challenging. Although the law provides for the formation of unions, legal enforcement of worker and union rights is weak, and employers do not always respect statutory law and collective bargaining agreements. The Legal Advisory Center (LAC), established on March 12 at Kyrgyz National University, Bishkek, offers information about work-related issues and educates workers about their rights on the job.
||USAID Country Program Director Carey Gordon (left) and the Hon. Ravshan Djeenbekov, MP, cut the ribbon at the opening ceremony for the Legal Advisory Center as invited dignitaries applaud. Photo by USAID
LAC, supported by the Solidarity Center with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development, provides free consultations for workers and employers by junior professors and law students at the university. Since its inauguration, LAC has offered legal advice to more than 40 workers, mostly from the informal economy, such as market vendors, construction workers, and service employees. In addition, LAC’s legal experts have given on-site consultations for workers at restaurants and construction sites.
For the past two years, the university’s Law Institute, in cooperation with the Solidarity Center, has organized numerous conferences, seminars, and workshops aimed at addressing questions related to proposed labor law reform in Kyrgyzstan. LAC formalizes and continues this work.
The opening ceremony was attended by representatives of the parliament, judiciary, government ministries, trade unions, businesses, and international organizations. Stanislaw Cieniuch, the Solidarity Center’s country program director in Kyrgyzstan, highlighted the importance of the center to workers in all economic sectors.
“Workers have come to us with a wide variety of concerns,” said Cieniuch. “For example, our legal experts have advised a woman who wanted to know whether she had to continue paying into the social security system after changing her citizenship (she does), as well as a teacher who learned that she was entitled to severance pay after her school was downsized. The teacher told her colleagues who had also been laid off, and they received on average two months’ wages. These people are very grateful for the service that the LAC provides.”