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International campaign helps to free two more Kazakh oil workers

10 April, 2014Under the pressure of the international community two out of seven imprisoned workers were released. Three, including the only woman, Roza Tuletaeva, were alleviated of their conditions of imprisonment. They were transferred to the colony-settlement. However two people, Shabdan Utkilov and Kanat Zhusipbaev so far remain in jail.

On 10 December 2013 the campaign "Kazakhstan: Free jailed oil workers" was launched and attracted strong attention of the international community. The campaign enjoyed the support of the Confederation of Free Trade Unions of Kazakhstan (KSPK) with help of  IndustriALL Global Union, the international web based union rights website LabourStart, Confederation of Labour of Russia (KTR), the International Union of Food, Agricultural and Hotel workers (IUF) and Association of Human Rights in Central Asia, as well as independent trade unions of Ukraine, Belarus and Georgia.

In May 2011 thousands of workers of the oil company KazMunaiGaz (earlier Kazakhoil) went on strike. Due to inactiveness of the authorities bordering to intentional escalation of aggressive behaviour of the oil company the labour conflict resulted into bloody clashes in Zhanaozen. Consequences were terrible: 17 people were killed and more than 100 injured. The consequent trial orchestrated by the Kazakh authorities in March 2012 condemned 37 people to different type of imprisonment and other punishing measures.

Some positive changes were noted since then, however the general situation concerning trade union rights worsened in Kazakhstan.

In 2013 a new national trade union of oil sector workers of the Republic of Kazakhstan has been created. This was a good idea in itself as for many years workers of the oil sector were divided and in the best case joined their forces only at the level of separate enterprises. But in this particular case the international trade union movement was outraged by the fact the chairman of the newly created union became Sultan Kaliev, former deputy director of the company KazMunaiGaz.

IndustriALL Global Union is concerned by the development under which the head of the sector trade union becomes the person de facto representing the opposite to the workers side of the 2011 conflict in Zhanaozen. This fact has already been many times reported when the opinions about control of the new trade union by the corporation KazMunaiGaz and the government of Kazakhstan were expressed.

Kaliev’s entry into capacity of the chairman coincided in time with submission for consideration of the Parliament of a bill “About trade unions” and adoption in the first reading of a new draft of the Crimial Code, seriously limiting the activities of trade unions genuinely protecting workers’ rights. The bill “About trade unions” in case of its adoption will mean reinforcement of trade union vertical which in absence of democratic procedures will bring to demotivation of membership. Besides the new bill also gives possibilities for fragmentation of trade union movement and creation of single plant trade unions.