The Independent Trade Union of Construction Complex Workers of Azerbaijan (Inshaat-Ish), the Trade Union of Construction and Construction Materials of Bosnia and Herzegovina (SGIGMBIH), Trade Union Construction, Housing and Communal Services of Republika Srpska (SGSKRS) and the BWI signed a cooperation agreement on the protection of migrant workers’ rights in Eastern Europe. The Agreement was signed at a meeting that discussed one of the largest registered cases of human trafficking for labour exploitation purposes in Europe, and involving the company SerbAz . The agreement was signed in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina on 1st of April 2010.
The two day session focused on the company SerbAz operating in Azerbaijan with workers from Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia. 700 migrant construction workers were given a tourist visa upon arrival and their passports were confiscated by their employer. They were never provided with any legal work permit, thereby making them illegal migrant workers. Their salaries have been delayed or reduced since the summer of 2009. In October 2009, no wages were paid. They have been living in appalling conditions with no food or water or proper medical services and two migrant workers died. Many workers also suffered severe physical and psychological violence. SerbAz has repatriated most workers to cover up any evidence of exploitation but 35 workers continue their work in Azerbaijan. The construction unions from Bosnia Herzegovina and Azerbaijan have been involved in the repatriation process. Due to high unemployment and low wages in the home country (BiH) part of the former SERBAZ workers are migrating to Dubai, Czech Republic and Russia.
The meeting produced an action plan for preventing future labour trafficking cases including the establishment of national networks composed of representatives of the Trade Unions and NGOs to exchange information and coordinate actions.
The cooperation agreement defines obligations of the Azerbaijanis and Bosnian trade unions in consulting, informing and providing practical assistance to migrant workers in the country of origin and destination. Trade unions and NGOs met with the former SERBAZ workers. Many workers are now ready to join BiH construction workers unions.
The BWI will continue to monitor the case. A follow-up meeting on the case is planned for November in Baku, Azerbaijan. Moreover, the BWI, ILO Budapest and construction unions will organize in June, in Sarajevo, a meeting to discuss practical ways of cooperation on migrant workers rights protection.
The meeting included trade Unions from Bosnia Herzegovina and Azerbaijan, NGOs from Bosnia Herzegovina, Serbia, Macedonia, Croatia and Azerbaijan and organizations like OSCE, the ILO, ITUC and the BWI.