Kazakhstan oil workers’ strike: International solidarity urgently needed!

We have just received this letter from Kazakhstan, which contains an important appeal on behalf of workers who have been in struggle under very difficult conditions for the last seven months. The Western media, which is very quick to denounce authoritarian regimes in Libya and Syria, has maintaned a shameful silence concerning the situation in this oil rich country. We appeal to the world working class to express solidarity with the workers of Kazakhstan who are fighting for their rights.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the profile of Kazakhstan was raised as one of the biggest world states, rich in oil and other resources with a big industrial potential.

Kazakhstan became independent and the former party bureaucracy led by Kazakhstan’s President for Life Nursultan Nazarbarv came to power. They drastically changed the previous Soviet policy of building socialism and went over to capitalism.

This was a real tragedy for the people. In the first years of independence they began a programme of mass privatization of strategic industries. Millions of workers lost their jobs, millions emigrated to other countries. Factories, workshops and gas and oil reserves were sold to multinational companies that manipulated corrupt local government officials, exploited the working class and destroyed the Kazakhstan economy.

High oil prices on world markets and high unemployment paralyzed the workers' protest movement. Part of the oil profits were destined to the state budget but also to the corrupt Nazarbaev clan. The rest of the money was used to subsidize the bureaucracy and to build a repressive machine that transformed Kazakhstan into an authoritarian dictatorship.

Nazarbaev also sponsored the establishment of a powerful lobby in Europe and the USA. It helped to present Kazakhstan as a prosperous and stable country, especially in contrast with neighbouring Afghanistan. The “democratic” West has established close ties with the one party system, which carries out repression against the free trade unions that have been replaced by “yellow” unions, collaborating with the bosses against the workers.

In May 2011 workers in big companies such as “Karazanbasmunay” and “Industrial filial “Ozenmunaigaz” based in the city of Zanaozen in Western Kazakhstan finally lost their patience and rose up against the bosses who had forced them to work in inhuman condition with low wages.  The oil-workers declared a hunger strike and soon workers from other companies in the region jointed them.

Hundreds of workers courageously started to go on strike. The bosses refused to negotiate with the workers and from the beginning pronounced the strike illegal. Demands to change the social conditions of the workers and raise wages were described as “unjustified”.

The workers’ leaders became the victims of repression. Natalia Sokolova, the Lawyer of the independent union of “Karazanbasmunay” was sentenced to 6 years imprisonment. In Zanaozen some striking workers were killed and others found themselves the target of provocations.

Workers lost their patience and came with their families and supporters onto the central city square under the symbolic name of “Independence”. About 5000 people took part in this action. It was the biggest workers’ protest in Kazakhstan’s history. The authorities were scared that the social demands would soon become political and started to sack workers en masse. The media received orders to silence these events.

oil workers_logoIt is now 7 months since thousands of sacked workers together with small children and old people came onto the square, demanding an answer to their just demands. Food is running out, entire families have lost their income and are facing starvation, workers’ children have stopped going to school.

Some international unions have sent letters to the authorities, asking them to explain the situation with the striking oil workers. Among them was Manfred Vada (general secretary of ICEM) and Ierki Rein (general secretary of IFM – the International Federation of Metalworkers). But the Kazakhstan government deceived them with disinformation.

Up to the present time, the company directors and the authorities have refused to negotiate with the workers. The situation changed before the so-called “parliamentary elections”. These elections are scheduled to be held on 15th January 2012 and the regime has stated that they are willing to talk with the workers. They say they are ready to take back all the sacked workers, but they are still refusing to raise wages or to give social guarantees.

  • The workers believe in victory! The truth in on their side!
  • International workers’ and union solidarity is needed!
  • Kazakhstan workers are now alone in the struggle, but you can help, comrades!

Model letter of protest

We [name of organization] wish to protest against the brutal repression of the workers of Kazakhstan. We demand:

  1. Immediate reinstatement of all sacked workers.
  2. An increase in workers’ wages.
  3. Improvement of working conditions.
  4. Immediate release from prison of Natal'ya Sokolova, the attorney of the Independent Trade Union of Karadzanbus.

Please send protests to Nursultan Nazarbayev 010000, Astana, Ak-Orda and to your nearest Kazakhstan embassy.

To the company:

AO "National company KazMunayGaz"
Kazakhstan, Astana 010000
Kabanbye-batur 19 (пр. Кабанбай-батыра, 19)
fax: +7 (7172) 97 60 00, 97 60 01
e-mail: info@kmg.kz
Office: (3172) 977429, 977617
PR: (3172) 977924, 977923

Letters of solidarity should be sent to qybrai@list.ru

We would appreciate it if you could also send copies to editor@marxist.com.