Over the last few weeks rolling strike action has been taken place in West Kazakhstan of oil workers demanding independent trade union reprsentation and that wage agreement from two years ago is implemented. In response the company has threatened striking workers, whilst their lawyers have been jailed. This week a delegation from the GUE/NGL left group in the European Parliament has sent back reports and requests for letters of protest and solidarity, the protest letter from Yorkshire Youth Fight for Jobs is printed below.
See for more info: http://www.paulmurphymep.eu/press-release-international-solidarity-need-for-kazakhstan
The ongoing strike of thousands of oil workers in the Mangistau oblast in the west of Kazakhstan has been brought to my attention by Paul Murphy MEP who recently visited the region. I also understand that the musician Sting cancelled a concert in the capital city Astana planned for the beginning of July saying that he would not cross the “virtual picket line” of the oil workers.
These are workers for the national oil company, KazMunaiGas, the national oil giant which is closely linked to the government and President of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazarbayev. The strike also involves workers from subsidiary companies and contractors for KazMunaiGas.
I am aware that two lawyers representing these workers have been jailed, namely, Natalia Sokolova and Akshimat Aminov. Ms. Sokolova has been charged with “stirring up social conflict” and could face up to ten years in jail. She has now been in jail for over two months and her husband has not once been allowed to visit her.
The police force has used violence against protesters on a number of occasions, including on 8 July when the riot police were used to disperse the protesters from Zhanaozen Square. Many workers have received very serious anonymous threats, threatening the lives of their families and to burn their homes.
I also understand that KazMunaiGas has sent official letters on headed paper to many strikers stating that if they do not return to work, they will be fired. Hundreds of workers have already been fired, simply for exercising what should be their right to strike. In effect, a lockout is being imposed by the company. Those who have returned to work have had to sign a statement declaring that the strike is illegal and committing not to engage in such action again.
I know that you consider this strike to be illegal on the basis of the Kazakh Labour Code. However, I consider the right to strike as a basic right for all workers and that the right to form independent trade unions should be respected according to ILO conventions.
I understand that senior management of the company has made it clear that they are not willing to negotiate with the representatives of the strikers until the strikers return to work and that those who have been fired would not be allowed to return to their jobs. This is obviously unacceptable to the strikers. I call on you to immediately engage in serious negotiations with representatives of the strikers.
I support the key demands of the strikers, which are as follows: 1. The release of Natalia Sokolova and Akshmiat Aminov, the trade union lawyers. 2. A commitment from the company that all strikers, including those who have been fired, can return to work without victimisation. 3. The right of the workers to determine their trade union leadership and to form independent trade unions. 4. Negotiations between the company and the representatives of the strikers to discuss the implementation of the wage agreement that was signed two years ago.
Iain Dalton, Yorkshire Organiser, Youth Fight for Jobs