**UPDATED** On 7 April the court of Astana sentenced Nurbek Kushakbayev to two-and-a-half years in a corrective labour colony for his calls to hold a strike. This is the first time a union leader has been prosecuted through the recently adopted Criminal Code. The judge has also satisfied the OCC’s demand to collect KZT 25 million (US$80,000) from Kushakbayev for alleged harm caused to the company.
IndustriALL has joined a campaign against the criminalization of union activities in Kazakhstan.
In a recent episode, large-scale repression was launched against leaders and activists of the independent trade unions affiliated to the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) in the Mangystau region, in the west of the country.
To support Kazakh workers, follow the link on LabourStart website http://www.labourstart.org/go/occ.
At the beginning of January, local authorities and management of the oil service company OCC attempted to suppress a peaceful mass protest by workers. The chairman of the OCC workers’ trade union, Amin Yeleusinov, and labour inspector Nurbek Kushakbayev were arrested on 20 January. They still remain in jail.
OCC workers’ union is an affiliate of the ITUC through the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of the Republic of Kazakhstan (CNTUK). Union activists and workers organized a mass protest including a hunger strike against the dissolution of the CNTUK, announced earlier by the authorities.
At the same time, OCC management started mass layoffs of employees who participated in the protests. The OCC is a part of KazMunaiGas, the largest state oil and gas company in Kazakhstan.
KazMunaiGas is the company infamous for a previous labour dispute, which due to a lack of action from authorities bordering on complicity, caused an escalation which resulted in riots with 17 killed and many protesting workers wounded in 2011 in Zhanaozen.
IndustriALL and the ITUC have joined forces in the campaign against repression of union leaders and OCC workers, and have asked all affiliates to support the LabourStart campaign. The ITUC has also sent a letter to European Commission laying out the facts of deregistration of trade unions and the arrest of their leaders.
To participate in the campaign go to LabourStart website and send your letter of protest demanding KazMunaiGas stop repression and start dialogue with workers and their representative union.
IndustriALL assistant general secretary Kemal Özkan said:
"IndustriALL is gravely concerned about the repression of trade union activists. These are blatant violations of the freedom of association, which is an integral part of the core ILO Conventions and international obligations of Kazakhstan. IndustriALL expresses strong solidarity with repressed union activists and will not stop the campaign until all jailed activists are freed and all accusations against them removed."