Kazakhstan: stop corrupt practices in oil and gas region, respect workers and their unions

photo: Michael Runkel Robert Harding AFP

The ITUC demands that the government of Kazakhstan immediately implements ILO recommendations, restores the status of the Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Industry Workers as the recognised sectoral union and carries out reforms to tackle discrimination in the sector.

It comes after over a hundred oil workers were arrested on 11 April for demonstrating in the capital, Astana, to highlight their unjust, exploitative and indecent treatment.

They were protesting after around 250 oil workers had been fired in the town of Zhanaozen by the company Ali Ber after it lost a contract with Kazmunaigaz, the state oil and gas company. In 2011, 17 people were killed and a hundred more injured there when security forces brutally ended a peaceful protest of several months over wages and working conditions that involved thousands of people.

Meaningful social dialogue

ITUC President Akiko Gono said: “This is typical of the corrupt way in which oil and gas is run in Kazakhstan, all at the expense of working people. Kazmunaigaz moves contracts between different operating companies to run down working conditions. These companies fire their workers when they lose contracts and the new, winning company re-employs some, but not all, and usually on worse conditions.

“This has to stop. Solutions are readily available to manage things in a much fairer way and give workers a voice. This will improve conditions in the sector and increase productivity. Social dialogue and collective bargaining are the best means to achieve transparency, stability and sustainability, but this cannot be genuine when freedom of association is restricted in law and practice.

“We demand the full implementation of the ILO recommendation on Kazakhstan, including on freedom of association, and the registration of the Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Industry Workers. This will lead to meaningful social dialogue and bargaining, which is a building block for tackling the corruption in the sector and ensuring decent work.

“Also, all charges against the workers who protested this week must be dropped. With the reforms we are demanding, they will have a channel to express their concerns and the next crisis can be averted.”

In meetings with the ILO Committee on Application of Standards, with several ILO officials and with an ITUC mission to the country, the government of Kazakhstan has promised to implement ILO recommendations. However, it has only made modest moves to improve collective dispute resolution processes and simplify industrial action by amending labour legislation. It must go further and promote genuine collective bargaining. It has yet to ensure full freedom of association in law, by amending trade union legislation, and in practice, by facilitating and not obstructing registration of unions. This should include ITUC affiliate the Confederation of Independent Trade Unions of Kazakhstan and the Trade Union of Fuel and Energy Industry Workers.