In Tajikistan, tens of thousands of people are not paid for months. Authorities talk about the crisis and lack of funds.
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Ozod Bakoev works in a construction company in Dushanbe. The employer did not pay him salary during four months referring to the lack of funds and financial crisis.
“I explained the company’s management that I have a family, and I have to provide for them. They promised to pay in the coming months. I was asked to continue to work, so that investors would commission the facility and transfer the money,” Bakoev said.
During the meeting with leaders and activists of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan on October 24, 2019, President Emomali Rahmon expressed concern about the delayed payment of salaries to employees of various industries.
Then, President Rahmon instructed the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment of Population and the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan to take measures to solve the problem in cooperation with partners, ministries, departments, heads of regions, cities and districts.
According to the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment of Population of Tajikistan, as of April 1, 2020, the amount of wage arrears in the country, including the arrears from previous years, amounted to 51.270.400 somoni (over $ 5.1 million), which is 9.5% higher than on January 1, 2020.
The Agency on Statistics under the President of Tajikistan told CABAR.asia that enterprises report the total amount of arrears remaining from the last year, but do not provide data on the number of employees who were not paid. According to the CIS Interstate Statistical Committee, in December 2019, the average salary in Tajikistan was 1,503 somoni (about $150). Considering this data, it can be assumed that the problem of wage arrears affects tens of thousands of people.
The Biggest Debts Owed to Ordinary Workers and Builders
The biggest debtors are industrial and construction enterprises, government agencies for land and irrigation, and aviation.
On May 18, Deputy Minister of Labour, Migration and Employment of Population of the Republic of Tajikistan Nurullo Mahmadullozoda responded to CABAR.asia request that the largest amount of wage arrears was accumulated in the construction sector: 16.288.800 somoni (over $1.6 million). The mining industry occupies the second place with 14 million somoni debt (about $1.4 million dollars) and the third place belongs to transport and communication sector with 9.2 million debt (over $900 thousand).
According to the Ministry of Labour, 90.7% of the debt (over 46.5 million somoni, about $4.6 million) is accumulated by 17 large enterprises. “Adrasmon” Mining Enterprise in Guliston is the biggest debtor; its debt is over 11 million somoni (about $1.1 million). “Tajikair” follows it with the debt that exceeded 9.1 million somoni (about $900 thousand).
According to the source, there is no wage arrears in the country’s public sector.
Previously, the media reported delayed payments of salaries to public sector employees, in particular to teachers and healthcare workers, in some cities and regions. The republican level events in the regions and districts were mentioned as the reason for this.
Ministry of Labour Fines and Clarifies
Nurullo Mahmadullozoda said that the main reasons for delayed payments of salaries are problems with the products sales, delays in financing by investors, non-payment of water users for water supply services, suspension of enterprises’ activity, lack of necessary raw materials or natural gas, temporary suspension of flights.
According to him, during the first three months of 2020 only, 16 heads and officials of various organizations were fined 19.2 thousand somoni each due to wage arrears.
Moreover, employees of the State Control Service of the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment transferred 5 inspected cases of incorrect and delayed payment of wages to the Prosecutor’s Office in 2019 and one in 2020.
In total, as of May 8, 2020, after the intervention of the State Control Service of the Ministry of Labour, Migration and Employment, more than 3.5 million somoni (about $350 thousand) were paid to the state budget and to citizens. Of these, more than 2.8 million are wage arrears (about $280 thousand). As of May 2019, the wage arrears were over 16.1 million (about $1.6 million).
In the first quarter of 2020, the Agency for Labour, Migration and Employment of the Ministry conducted explanatory work in 942 enterprises, institutions and various organizations of the country on the observance of labour rights, in particular, the elimination of wage arrears.
According to Nurullo Mahmadullozoda, the Chairpersons of the regions, cities and districts created “working groups for wage arrears elimination”.
The Ministry promises that these groups will take “effective measures to reduce wage arrears”. In particular, monthly meetings will be held with the heads of the local administrations and the heads of organizations owing debt.
In addition, a hotline was created in the Ministry of Labour to ensure control over the timely salaries payments to employees of enterprises and institutions.
However, the Ministry admits that the problem of salaries payments remains today.
Unions Protect Their Members Only
The Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan reported that in 2019 they received individual requests to pay off wage arrears. However, a source in the Federation said that he could provide data on these only after an official written request.
Ismoil Fayzizoda, Deputy Chairperson of the Federation of Independent Trade Unions of Tajikistan, told CABAR.asia that they were considering wage arrears only in those organizations that were members of Trade Unions of Tajikistan.
“There are some complaints related to wage arrears. We will consider them within our powers. In addition, according to the action plan, we discuss the problem of wage arrears during trips to cities and regions. There are also permanent working groups at the national level aiming to reduce wage arrears, with which we work under bilateral agreements,” said Fayzizoda.
In total, 1,120 primary trade union organizations are created in institutions and enterprises, regardless of the form of ownership, covering 17 sectors.
Dushanbe resident Ozod Bakoev, who has not been paid for four months, says his family lives by borrowing money from friends and relatives.
“I hope that the company will pay me for the work, and then I can repay my debts. I have no other choice,” Bakoev said.
This article was prepared as part of the Giving Voice, Driving Change – from the Borderland to the Steppes Project.