Workers of GM Uzbekistan Sent to Collect Cotton

Thousands of workers and employees of the General Motors (GM) plant in the Uzbek city of Asaka in the Andijan region, have been sent to collect cotton since September 14. According to a factory worker who reported this, workers are collecting cotton in the fields in the Jizzakh and Tashkent regions.

An unidentified spokesman at the press center of GM Uzbekistan told Radio Ozodlik that only a small number of factory workers are taking part in the cotton harvesting during holidays and that this does not harm the company’s work process. According to the official, the plant continues to function and the conveyor belt has not been stopped.

An employee of GM Uzbekistan who spoke with Radio Ozodlik, said that some workers of the plant began to be sent to collect cotton from September 28, and that from October 14, cotton picking had started on a more regular basis. According to him, employees were told not to speak to anyone about their place of work and “not to wear clothes displaying the GM plant logo”.

According to an official of the khokimiyat (local administration) in the Andijan region, about 3,000 “assistants” from the Asaka plant of GM Uzbekistan left to collect cotton on October 14 and 15.

A representative of GM Uzbekistan in Asaka said that the majority of those who have been sent to collect cotton were recently-employed workers:

“Many employees and bosses hired other workers to pick cotton instead of themselves. We are obliged to take an active part in the universal hashar (informal cooperative labor activities) to collect cotton, but in the meantime we are not allowed to stop the plant. We are coping with all these tasks”, he said.

Workers from the plant collect cotton alongside representatives of the “unorganized population”*.

A duty officer at one of the cotton headquarters in Andijan said that many of those who are in the cotton fields are representatives of the “unorganized population”. “For example, you walk along the fields. You have a desire to collect cotton. You go to the local cotton headquarters, ask them for an apron to collect cotton, collect it and get cash for each kilogram of harvested cotton. Among the “unorganized population” there are factory workers and pupils. This is their personal wish”, he said.

A GM Uzbekistan worker in Asaka, who spoke with Radio Ozodlik, reported that workers who had not left for harvesting cotton in the Jizzakh and Tashkent regions, were ordered to go to pick cotton as part of the “unorganized population” after work and on Sundays.

* The term “unorganized population” is used to describe unemployed residents who collect cotton individually.

16 October 2017