Some 207 workers at TK Geo Reserve, a mining and processing company in Kyrgyzstan, are demanding to be paid for four months of unpaid wages.
The workers, who are members of IndustriALL Global Union affiliate, the Mining and Metallurgy Trade Union of Kyrgyzstan (MMTUK), have said they will hold an indefinite protest if the debt is not paid soon.
TK Geo Reserve processes gold ore from the Kuran-Jailoo mine into concentrate at its factory in the Kemin district of Kyrgyzstan. The company is owned by Boratero Trading Limited, registered in Cyprus, and belongs to Russian oligarch, Dmitri Bosov.
At the beginning of June 2017, MMTUK held two days of meetings with company management calling on them to reimburse wage arrears from January to April 2017, which amounts to approximately US$150,000. They also asked management to provide work clothes and to conclude open-ended employment contracts instead of three-month contracts.
Management had originally promised to resolve the issue of the unpaid wages by 2 June. Now this deadline has been postponed until 14 June. The company’s general director has refused to fulfill the workers’ demands, citing a lack of funds from concentrate sales and the difficulty in obtaining permits.
However, according to the president of MMTUK, Eldar Tadjibayev, the company recently signed a major deal to sell enough concentrate to repay the wages:
“TK Geo Reserve has sold 300 tonnes of concentrate, and now it is preparing permits for another 1,000 tonnes. We talked to the management, as well as the owner, and suggested that they ask for an internal loan, as the company is part of a major Russian diversified corporation. The company could then payback the loan after the concentrate sale. We are working on this proposal.”
Non-payment of wages is a gross violation of article 157 of the Labour Code of the Kyrgyz Republic and the law "On ensuring timely payment of wages, pensions, allowances and other social payments" adopted on 26 June 1996.
The legal inspectorate of MMTUK has called on the company to stop the violations of labour legislation of Kyrgyzstan, which could make management subject to disciplinary and criminal charges. If the debt is not paid in the near future, more than 100 workers will stage an indefinite rally in front of the company’s office in Bishek.