Almaty recently announced the implementation of a revised labor code. The controversial code is rife with regulations that harm ordinary workers, leading many analysts to dub it a “bill against the people.”
Deliberation on a new labor code started in the latter half of 2015, sparking contention from the onset. The code was developed by the Ministry of Labor and Social Protection and was passed under the premise that it will help liberalize labor relations between employees and employers.
The code was accepted as part of President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s “100 steps” initiative to implement five institutional reforms, says labor law analyst and Kazakh regional court justice Inessa Kuanova. But this code will not help foster stability and mutual agreement, she warns.
“Back in 2012, when this labor code initiative was first mentioned, our president said that the new code would be aimed at making sure that workers feel like their rights are respected. But the new labor code, after we saw it published, actually limits the rights of the workers,” she says.
She also explains that the new labor code is particularly harsh against contractors versus fulltime employees. For example, according to the new bill, contractors can be fired for almost any reason, and the employer does not need to justify their decision.
“The problem also is that the person who was fired can’t, according to the new code, sue the employer or demand an appropriate explanation,” she explains.
Another new addition to the code is that if a worker damages any of the employer’s property, he or she has to pay it off immediately. Previously the employee was supposed to pay for a portion of that damaged property every month until he the debt was fully repaid, says Kuanova, adding that overall, the new labor code increased the powers of the employers and diminished the rights of the employees.
According to the new code, the government’s role in the employee-employer relationship is now minimal, says president of the United Confederation of Professional Unions of Kazakhstan Larisa Kharkova. All the government can do as of now is determine minimal wages, holiday payments, and minimal social benefits. Everything else is left to the discretion of the employer. As of now, top-level managers will determine salaries for each level of qualifications and years of experience.
Kharkova says that now, according to the bill, “employees, if they feel unsatisfied, can’t just start a protest or a strike, they first need to get a permission for that from their employer, which makes it difficult.”
Economist Marat Kairlenov says that while the new labor code claims to address the recent economic challenges, it instead makes conditions for workers more difficult.
“More than 30% of our population work as unregistered workers at various businesses, and they don’t pay any taxes. With the new code, the government will also suffer, because the code will force more people to move to the shadow businesses,” he adds.