Kazakhstan: ITUC demands social dialogue and dropping of sanctions against striking workers

photo: IndustriAll

The ITUC condemns the violations of workers rights in a labour dispute at the company West Oil Software, Kazakhstan.

In a letter to the President of Kazakhstan, ITUC General Secretary Luc Triangle has demanded that all sanctions against the striking workers are dropped and all “necessary measures are taken to ensure that this labour dispute is resolved through social dialogue and in line with the principle of freedom of association.”

Around 500 workers from the Industry Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Complex Workers began strike action at West Oil Software on 11 December 2023 as part of an existing labour dispute.

The same day, a local court, in a private hearing with no trade union representation, ruled the strike illegal. Since then, striking workers and their families have faced a campaign of intimidation by the company and local authorities. An appeal against the court ruling has been rejected.

On 13 January, seven striking workers were interrogated by the police and West Oil Software announced their dismissal.

Right to strike

Luc Triangle said: “Labour disputes like this are inevitable in the oil and gas sector in Western Kazakhstan, which is dominated by subcontracting and outsourcing.

“However, the action against these workers violates Kazakhstan’s commitments to ILO conventions and creates an unacceptable climate of fear and insecurity. We urge the government of Kazakhstan to respect the rights of working people to organise trade unions and to strike, as enshrined in the conventions ratified by the country.”

The ILO Committee on the Applications of Conventions and Recommendations has repeatedly criticised the law in Kazakhstan that criminalises workers who strike.

Luc Triangle concluded that: “The government must take on its responsibility to promote social dialogue, collective bargaining and freedom of association.

“The continued criminalisation of striking workers, with no action taken against the retaliatory dismissal of striking workers by the employer would clearly signal that the government chooses repression […] over respect of fundamental human rights.”