The existing trade unions in the oil-rich former Soviet republic are strongly tied to the regime and the labour rights are weak. Meanwhile a new union has come into existence "Workers’ Table Trade Unions Confederation". Its chairman, Afiaddin Mammadov, was detained on 1 August on charges of disobeying police orders. The arrest joins a series of recent arrests by the authorities, in which trade unions and civil society organizations have been hit hard.
The existing trade unions - «Confederation of Trade Unions of Azerbaijan» - in the oil-rich former Soviet republic are strongly tied to the regime. Labour rights are weak, and statutory rights are often not respected by the police and authorities tasked with enforcing them. Corruption is widespread.
In March 2022 the "Worker Table Union Confederation" , a new, independent umbrella organization for trade unions in the country was established. The organization is mostly focused on the service sector, largely targeting delivery businesses and taxi companies. Their union is 90% composed of food couriers who recently went on a strike against Wolt, the most popular delivery app in Baku. The union is now working on involving more workers, especially in supermarkets.
Afiaddin Mammadov, the chairman of the new independent unions has protested against corruption and the disregard of workers' rights for a number of years. He went on hunger strike in protest against the ruling on the same day he was arrested. According to sources, Mammadov was tortured while in custody. This is the third time he has been arrested for disobeying the police and hooliganism in less than a year.
Another activist, Elvin Mustafayev, who is a member of the same trade union, was arrested on 4 August on drug charges. In March, he received 25 days in prison without trial for disobeying the police. And most recently, union activist Aykhan Israfilov was detained on 11 August.
The authorities have responded to the new unions by meeting the demands with arrests and police actions. Last week, the conflict escalated, when the authorities in the country chose to revoke the license of Wolt. As a result, 2,500 platform workers who deliver food are now out of a job.
If convicted, Israfilov and Mustafayev could face between five to 12 years in prison. It is not clear whether the confederation’s chairman, Mammadov, is facing a prison term as well.
The Norwegian conederation of Trade Unions - LO - is supporting the jailed union acitivsts with legal assistance.