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IndustriALL encourages Kazakh oil unions to merge

30 May, 2013Union leaders and activists from the oil regions in Kazakhstan attended an ILO workshop in Atyrau. During the discussions the participants grasped the necessity of one strong national oil sector union.

On 14-15 May an international ILO workshop was held in Atyrau (Kazakhstan) for the oil sector unions. The key issue discussed at the workshop was the merger of various oil sector unions in Kazakhstan. As opposed to many other sectors and industries, oil sector never had a national union.

Some 25 union leaders and activists from the oil regions in Kazakhstan took part in the workshop. Experts included Gul’nara Zhumagel’dieva (assistant president of the Federation of Unions of Kazakhstan), Sergius Glovackas (ILO Moscow), Dzhahangir Aliev (president of the Oil Workers Union of Azerbaijan). The workshop was conducted by Vadim Borisov of the IndustriALL Global Union Moscow office.

Since there are many foreign-owned plants in the oil sector, the participants of the workshop noted the rise in agency labour at their workplaces. According to the union activists, agency work isn’t practiced much at the nationally-owned plants.

The majority of plants are undergoing a process of ‘optimization’, accompanied by dismissals and rising workload. This causes frustration among oil workers.

The workshop was opened by Abelgazi Kusainov, president of the Federation of Unions of Kazakhstan. He spoke of the need to implement reforms in the trade union movement to address workplace problems more quickly. Kusainov also emphasized the problems caused by the lack of unity between oil sector unions in Kazakhstan.

Dzhahangir Aliev recalled his experience of establishing a national oil sector union in Azerbaijan. He claimed that the power of national union is manifested in the fact that the employers which earlier didn’t recognize local unions now step forward and express their commitment to social dialogue, especially during the periods of social tension at their plants.

The participants identified a list of tasks that should be addressed by the unions at different levels and came to the conclusion of the need to create national oil sector union. A certain suspicion, however, was revealed on the part of the presidents of local unions towards the idea of a merger. A long ‘freewheeling’ time was a factor in the lack of motivation to share the very real income from union dues in the name of unity and solidarity, still seen as abstract values.

Vadim Borisov and Sergius Glovackas assured the participants that they will continue to bring international support to all the initiatives to create a powerful national oil sector union in Kazakhstan.