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EU should promote human rights in Kazakhstan

13 September, 2012Human Rights Watch (HRW) accuses Kazakhstan’s government and some companies of systematic violations of oil workers’ rights and suggests EU should pressure Kazakh authorities to improve the situation.

In its detailed 153 page report “Striking Oil, Striking Workers: Violations of Labor Rights in Kazakhstan’s Oil Sector, released on 10 September 2012, the group gives a detailed analysis of the tactics used by Kazakh authorities and three companies operating in the oil sector in western part of Kazakhstan who systematically violated oil workers’ rights to freedom of assembly, association, to organize and bargain collectively and to freedom of speech. HRW also issued a number of recommendations regarding improvement of the human rights climate in Kazakhstan.

The report based on research and interviews with oil workers and union leaders reports on a conflict that started back in May 2011 when workers tried to negotiate collective agreements concerned with their wages and conditions, on which there is currently a LabourStart campaign running here: http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=1461.

First met with indifference from management and the government the workers faced a wide range of harassments and mass dismissals affecting at least 2,000 people in three companies of which one is Kazakh firm OzenMunaiGas and two are joint ventures: KarazhanbasMunaiJSC, a Chinese-Kazakh company; and Ersai Caspian Contractor LLC, partially-owned by Italian group Eni.

On 16 December 2011 during a peaceful demonstration by the workers some unidentified men wearing oil company jackets triggered clashes resulted in 16 deaths. The authorities used the case to wage a real campaign against oil workers and activists. In August 2011 a trade union lawyer at KarazhanbasMunai, Natalia Sokolova, was sentenced to six-year prison for talking to the workers about wage disparities, later she was released.

IMF and ICEM, co-founders of IndustriALL Global Union earlier addressed to leadership of the country demanding to stop violations of human and workers’ rights in Kazakhstan. http://www.imfmetal.org/index.cfm?c=27817&l=2 Recently IndustriALL in partnership with LabourStart joined by the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan, the Confederation of Labour of Russia, and the International Trade Union Confederation started a campaign of solidarity in support of oil workers of Kazakhstan.

To give your support to the campaign please follow the link: http://www.labourstartcampaigns.net/show_campaign.cgi?c=1461.

In its report, HRW argues that as part of the process of on-going negotiations of a new enhanced Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) between the EU and Kazakhstan, there is “a unique opportunity to promote human rights reform in Kazakhstan by formulating concrete, measurable improvements the authorities should implement before conclusion of PCA negotiations.”