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Kazakh trade unions at ArcelorMittal strengthen their position

02.06.2017

A workshop for members of Kazakh trade unions and of German trade union IG Metall was held in the city of Temirtau under the leadership of IndustriALL Global Union. 

The participants represent workers of  the metallurgical company ArcelorMittal in their countries. The German delegates will help colleagues from Kazakhstan to become participants of the meetings of the ArcelorMittal European Works Council.

Metallurgical Workers' Union Zhaktau and Miners' Union Korgau at ArcelorMittal Temirtau are IndustriALL affiliates through the Trade Union of Workers of Mining and Metallurgical Industry of the Republic of Kazakhstan, whose leaders also participated in the meeting.

Currently the unions are negotiating the collective agreement at the plant, which employs about 29,000 workers. The local currency KZT lost more than half of its value over the past two years, after Kazakhstan switched to a free floating exchange rate for its currency. The union members reasonably demand a wage increase of 30 per cent.

Excellent company results this year allow the demand to be fulfilled. According to the official report of ArcelorMittal for the first quarter of 2017, the plants in Dofasco, Canada, and in Temirtau are the best enterprises in the sphere of production, where record levels have been achieved. Kazakhstan workers produced 1,222 million tons of iron and 1,296 million tons of steel from January to April 2017.

The unions also support their Ukrainian colleagues, who demand a wage increase of 50 per cent at ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih. 

Agency work was identified as a common problem for Kazakh and German workers. It is the most common cause of labour disputes with ArcelorMittal Temirtau. The unions hope that the law on banning agency work in Kazakhstan will be adopted in the near future. Michael Bach, coordinator of ArcelorMittal, said that the number of employees with precarious work was 30 per cent in Germany. However, wages of agency and permanent workers are the same. 

IndustriALL regional secretary Vadim Borisov stated:

“The Labour Code and new law on trade unions have weakened the role of unions. On the other hand, there was an one-sided strengthening of the employer’s position in Kazakhstan. Therefore, we are interested in strengthening the position of trade unions through the development of direct contacts with unions around the world”.

The participation of Zhaktau and Korgau union members in the meetings of ArcelorMittal European Works Council, at least as observers, will be a critical step in this direction. The same position was expressed at a similar meeting by the leaders of the Trade Union of Workers of Metallurgical and Mining Industries of Ukraine at ArcelorMittal Kryvyi Rih. Michael Bach will appeal to German colleagues from ArcelorMittal and the members of the European Works Council to resolve this issue.

Earlier the trade unions of Kazakhstan and Ukraine appealed to the management of ArcelorMittal with a proposal to conclude a regional framework agreement, but have not received an answer. In light of the recent change in the leadership of the company, and particularly the designation of a new general director of the Kazakhstan and Ukrainian enterprises, there is an opportunity to raise a question of a common agreement one more time. 

Finally, there was an idea about further exchange of delegations. The German side will consider the issues of preparing a future visit and will return to Kazakhstan with a larger delegation.