Workers strike rage on in Kazakhstan
This September, strikes in one of Russia’s brotherly republic only intensified – Kazakhstan was the driver. The Zhanaozen massacre in 2011, in which at least fifteen workers were killed through the fault of the oil and gas company KazMunayGas, briefly cooled the ardor. Worker’s trikes reemerged again in Mangistau and also in the Kyzylorda as well as North Kazakhstan regions.
Araltuz JSC – the largest salt production enterprise in Kazakhstan, located in the Kyzylorda region, has not raised salaries for personnel for almost a decade. During that time, workers’ salaries averaged 48 thousand tenge ($ 259 in 2014). Due to the depreciation of the currency, wages more than halved to $ 112. On September 1, workers went on strike, demanding an increase in wages to at least 100 thousand tenge ($ 235 – even less than in 2014). On September 5, it became known that the management is ready to meet halfway: the salaries of the company’s employees will grow by 12.5%.
In fact, the employer only outlined the status quo; workers defended the indexation of wages to the level of 2014, but this is only the first step. We know what Kazakh workers are capable of.
In Zhetybai, 200 workers of Oil Transport Corporation LLC expressed solidarity with their earlier striking colleagues from West Oil Software LLC and demanded that the President of the Republic, Kassym-Zhomart Tokayev, raise wages at the enterprise. Zhetybai is located just 74 kilometers from Zhanaozen, where another oil and gas company executed workers in 2011.
Meanwhile, the strike of West Oil Software LLC was declared illegal – they say that the strike was conducted in violation of the Labor Code; an employer who refused to conclude a collective agreement and raise wages will not be held liable. One way or another, the strikes at the fields do not subside.
More workers, this time of the titanium-zirconium deposit of the Obukhovsky GOK in the Taiynshynsky district have been on hunger strike for nine days already. The indifferent civil society of Kazakhstan supports the hungry with wide coverage of the situation around the mining and processing plant.
Despite the Kazakh political regime’s much more brutal approach to defiance, workers are not shy about fighting for decent working conditions and the future of families. The fear of the new Zhanaozen and the possible consequences, including imprisonment, recede before the strength of an organized collective. When the crowd becomes a close-knit fist, not a single “omnipotent akeem” will be able to stop such a force.