Armenian Labour and Social Issues Minister Aghvan Vardanyan on behalf of the Armenian Government highly assessed cooperation with the ILO, which “became very active over the past year.” Armenia has settled its contribution arrears and regained the right to vote in the ILO. In November 2004 the Armenian government together with its social partners signed the ILO-Armenia Programme of technical cooperation for 2004-2006.
Mr. Buttler pointed out that the primary goal of the ILO and its constituents today is decent work. The ILO works to promote decent work through its work on employment, social protection, standards and fundamental principles and rights at work and social dialogue.
“Armenia adheres to the ILO principles of social partnership and continues to adjust the republic’s legislation to the ILO’s norms and requirements,” Mr. Vardanyan said. The ILO helped Armenia work out a new Labour Code and a Labour Inspection Law and set up the State Labour Inspection.
Armenia has already ratified 23 ILO Conventions and another ten are in the process of ratification. Mr. Buttler pointed out that at present Armenia reached a stage when it should focus on the implementation of the ratified conventions.
“At present, we’ve approached a stage where we have realized that for the republic’s economy it is very important to ensure safe and healthy working conditions, which would be beneficial not only to the employees, but also employers and the government,” the minister said.
Mr. Vardanyan also pointed to problems in implementing normative legal acts, retraining labour inspectors, creating labour inspection’s information center and developing tripartite cooperation in the social sector.
Friedrich Buttler confirmed ILO’s readiness to help resolve problems voiced by Aghvan Vardanyan. He said that all necessary funds had been provided to expand a programme for labour inspectors’ retraining, which will allow to train specialists in compliance with international standards.
The ILO has already organized training in Bulgaria for five labour inspectors, director of the ILO Regional Bureau for Europe and Central Asia said. Those inspectors who had already undergone training will retrain their 140 colleagues. Mr. Buttler pointed out that the ILO Moscow Office offered to train another ten labour inspectors.
Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan also attaches importance to Armenia’s membership in the ILO. Adoption of ILO standards will help not only regulate social issues in the country, but will also influence its economic development and raise its international rating. The minister also hails the ILO’s decision to create the post of a National Correspondent in Armenia, which will allow coordinating the ILO-Armenia cooperation more effectively.
Mr. Buttler visited the Kotayk region, where the ILO is implementing an employability and skills development projects. Its beneficiaries are women, youth and other vulnerable groups, he said. Other ILO’s projects for employers and trade unions are also underway.
“It is the first international project for Kotayk. During the Soviet years it was an industrial region, now 70 percent of enterprises are closed and the unemployment rate is high. About 60 percent of economically active population is unemployed. About 35,000 are jobless aged between 15-29. The region has a good potential for tourism – resorts and mineral water springs and we should tap it properly in order to provide jobs for our people, and this is where we rely on the ILO experience and expertise” deputy head of the Kotayk Regional Administration Levon Mikaelyan said.
Friedrich Buttler visited the “Grand Candy” factory to look into working conditions and occupational safety arrangements. “Grand Candy” is the largest manufacturer of confectionery in Armenia and a member of the Employers’ Association. After the USSR’s collapse the factory was closed, in 1995 was privatized and in 2000 regained the market. Now it exports its products to Russia, Georgia, Canada and the United States. A trade union is not active yet, but in compliance with the new Labour Code it has to be created and the administration will fully support its emergence, as well as the creation of a bi-partite occupational safety committee.
Friedrich Buttler visited Holy Echmiadzin, a residence of the Armenian Apostolic Church. He also met with head of the Trade Unions Confederation of Armenia Mesrop Harutyunyan, executive director of the Armenian Manufacturers and Employers Union Gagik Makaryan, Finance Minister Vardan Khachatryan, Deputy Trade and Economic Development Minister Armen Gevorgyan, chairman of the Permanent Committee for Social, Health and Environment Protection Issues of the Armenian National Assembly Gagik Mkheyan, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Mr. John Evans and director of the World Bank Office Roger Robinson.
The visit was concluded with a big press conference that brought together all leading TV, radio, and printed media of Armenia.