The first meeting of the Textile Workers' Union of Kyrgyzstan took place in the Kyrgyz capital Bishkek earlier this month, with social dialogue, continued union organisation and an understanding of the supply chain highlighted as key issues to strengthen the country's textile and garment industry.

The union is a new affiliate of the IndustriAll global union, which plans to run training on methods to mobilise members and attract new members.

Kyrgyzstan's textile and clothing industry currently employs around 150,000 workers, with production mainly exported to Russia and Kazakhstan. Production is disseminated among thousands of small enterprises, and there are currently no large global brands in the country.

However, the ongoing TechnoPark textile training and research project aims to increase the industry's production capacities to attract global brands to Kyrgyzstan.

"Before big brands move into Kyrgyzstan, it is important for textile and garment workers to understand how the supply chain works and the value that unions bring to improving working conditions," explains Christina Hajagos-Clausen, IndustriAll's textile and garment director.

At the meeting, trade union leaders from Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan also reported on the differences in working conditions between workers employed at employer-owned enterprises and those at rented factories, adding employers at rented enterprises do not see "any point" in improving working conditions, such as better ventilation or air conditioning.

Vadim Borisov from IndustriAll's regional office said the cooperation with the Textile Workers' Union of Kyrgyzstan will be a base to attract other textile unions in the region.